By way of Romenesko, this column by Laura Berman from the Detroit News:
The scene: A college classroom at the University of Michigan-Dearborn.
The subject: Writing the newspaper column.
The question: “Can any of you name a columnist you read — in a newspaper or magazine or online — on a regular basis?”
In response: Dead silence.
Slowly, one hand rises. A sports columnist is mentioned.
Nobody else in the room hints at any recognition of the sports columnist’s name: Anyone?
“My generation is very visually oriented,” explains Ryan Schreiber, a U-M Dearborn junior from Dearborn who — like most in the class — is majoring in journalism but doesn’t read much of it.
“My generation grew up watching MTV. We are used to short spurts of words, lots of images…We’re used to immediate gratification.”…
In another journalism class down the hall, the instructor annoyed his students. After asking how many read a newspaper regularly — four or five out of 35 said they did — he required them to bring a newspaper to class twice a week. “The students don’t like it,” says Laura Hipshire, one of the journalism students.
Read the whole thing here. Then notice what four-letter word is missing from the column: blog.
Why? Maybe because newspaper columnists and reporters (with a growing number of honorable exceptions) are either still largely unaware of blogs or loathe them so much that they prefer not to acknowledge their existence. Maybe because newspaper editors (with a lot fewer exceptions) are proving themselves to be deeply weird when it comes to blogging, which they apparently regard as a threat to their long-established ways of doing journalistic business.
But here’s another thought that occurred to me as I read this piece: could it be that the most immediate effect of the blogosphere on the mainstream media will be to make columnists obsolete?
While I don’t want to rev up the crystal ball too far this morning (I have to finish writing a column for a newspaper, as it happens), I’ve been wondering exactly what place the old-fashioned newspaper column still has in the new world of on-line opinion journalism, with its unprecedented blend of immediacy, interaction, and diversity of view. Reporting, yes: that continues to make sense, and it’s not going away any time soon, though its nature will doubtless be transformed as newspapers come to terms with the blogosphere. But who’s going to be reading twice-weekly op-ed essays on paper five years from now? For that matter, who’s going to be publishing them?
I don’t know. I’m just asking.
And now, if you’ll excuse me, I’ve got a deadline to hit….