Willy Stern, a former writer for Forbes, BusinessWeek and other publications, writes in the Nashville Scene how the journalism business has changed, and he argues that the most important change has been in the talent in the newsroom.
Stern writes, “We journalists are an I.Q.-driven profession. In business school terms, our primary source of capital is intelligence, or so we tell ourselves. The late legendary Wall Street Journal editor-in-chief Vermont Royster well understood this basic pointâ€”four decades ago. When asked in the 1960s to explain how his business newspaper had risen to national prominence, Royster responded without hesitation that the Journal simply hired ‘the best minds.’
“Time was, Royster was right.
“Walk into the newsroom of any of your 90 newspapers today. Or head down to one of your local TV stations. Look around. Better yet, pop down to Nashville and visit with the writers and editors at The Tennessean. Then ask yourself whether any of these news people have the brains to make partner at the blue-chip law firm downtown, or receive tenure at a top university, or become a talented surgeon. You already know the answer, and so do I. With a few exceptionsâ€”some of the journalists at The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, The Washington Post and a few othersâ€”the staffs of daily newsrooms today are largely composed of unimpressive people doing singularly unimpressive work. Call it the ‘Department of Motor Vehicle-ization’ of the news business.”