Yesterday, I first read the news about David Robertson’s successful meeting with Dr. Andrews on River Ave. Blues. At the time, I noticed that their story had no link, and instead began with the words “The Yankees have just updated us…” I did a quick search among the local beat reporter blogs and found no mention of the story. Finally, it struck me to check Twitter. Sure enough, the Yankees PR feed had updated fans directly as to Robertson’s condition, entirely bypassing the news media apparatus.
As fans get more direct access from teams and players, it seems likely that newspapers would cut back on beat reporters. What would be their function if news can be gotten directly from the source? They would basically just function as collectors of banal quotes used to fill column space. However, illustrious RAB commenter TSJC added the following:
Perhaps Twitter will place less emphasis on the beat reporter aspect of the beat reporter, and more emphasis of the investigative journalist aspect of the beat reporter.
I don’t need Pete Abe to tell me that David Robertson will be out two weeks, I need Pete Abe to tell me how that figure was arrived at and if there was any controversy or disagreement about the figure, and if there are any potential ramificatiosn of those potential controversies or disagreements.
Essentially, social media outlets such as Twitter will kill the reporting that could be done by an idiot with a bit of access. It will actually help the careers of those who can use that access to do some investigative work, and get us data that we could never hope to get sitting at home. Of course, as commenter JMK notes, the question then becomes one of economics:
Investigative work is almost always a lengthy, costly process. How will it be funded? IJ is usually one of the first parts to be cut from a publication for the reasons already listed, and I’m not sure that the model (or lack thereof, more accurately) of blogging enables the capital for IJ to be a long-term solution. Perhaps something will come of it in the future; I could see a scenario in which reporters follow their own stories, do investigative work, and charge advertising on their blogs. Still, not many reporters could sustain that sort of risk.
I believe that there will a paradigm shift in regard to how media outlets deal with sports stories due to the proliferation of blogs and social media. With access becoming less important in terms of gathering and reporting the news, media outlets will seek to use their comparative advantage by shifting funds towards, rather than away from, investigative journalism. The ability to do that kind of work is quickly becoming the only thing that differentiates between a beat writer and an enterprising fan with a Twitter account. If newspapers do not begin using their access to produce unique work, the will die a slow and painful death.
What do you think? Does Twitter mean the end of the beat reporter? Do you think newspapers will adapt?
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