Tuesday, June 9, 2009

The blogger as a newspaper columnist

I can't help but consider, in this new age of information technology and declining newspaper readership, if the job of "Columnist" is simultaneously more outdated than other other, yet more relevant than any other.

For a traditional newspaper, the relevant and/or crucial jobs are few and far between, and clearly, an opinion job is less crucial than say a beat reporter given the inside knowledge into court cases, town budget meetings, etc.--elements which are hard to come by for the traditional news buff or for the internet to grasp ahold of before the hard-hitting investigators. Especially if this person is able to break some national story or conspiracy, etc., which has been the essential task of true journalism for centuries.

Therefore, I think it's fair to assume that the job of the columnist--a frequent opinion or reflective area of the newspaper--is a dying art form when it comes to traditional newspaper publishing.

But in the overall scheme of things, there is no more relevant job. To a newspaper struggling to sell copies, it might bring in a few more readers, but placing these same opinions online brings in a much larger and more diverse readership, and therefore, more profits. Perhaps newspapers would be more likely to profit from columnists if the columns were online instead of some online and the majority in print? It might seem a bit radical, but then again, the times we live in mirror this assumption pretty well.

Which brings me to the catalyst for this post: am I not a columnist? I believe I am.

I am a columnist without a newspaper. Much like 'the man without a country,' except I do feel I belong, but to the world, much like to the world wide web. So is everyone who has a blog in all actuality a columnist? Well, if the writing and ideas are focused enough and not all skewed about everything and anything, then perhaps, yes, everyone is a columnist if they are a blogger.

My column would clearly be about the world I live in--that of poetry, literature, teaching, facts, current events, and the exciting things I encounter either in person or over the internet. If newspapers were still popular and were hiring in a healthy economy with a populous focused on reading as much as possible, I would without hesitation place a link to my blog on an application.

If online readership can translate into success for a newspaper, any s mart editor or publisher would grasp onto that columnist immediately.

But is the job of the columnist dead entirely--as it relates to newspaper publishing? I don't think so. There are still many people who buy a newspaper solely to read the comments, opinions and insights of their favorite columnists--and more specialized columnists, who refuse to go viral, can still maintain a healthy following through newspaper readership.

I do, however, believe the future holds an online presence (almost solely) for columnists as a way to reach a much wider and diverse audience. The issues can be more widespread, the focus can be honed, deadlines can be extended, entries can be more plentiful, and insight can be just as keen and challenging to any status quo.

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