Great minds think
News director for Hawaii News Now
Platte previously served as senior vice president and editor of the Honolulu Advertiser. Before coming to Honolulu, he was an investigative reporter and newsroom manager at the Los Angeles Times. He also worked at the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, Miami Herald, and Orange County Register.
Q: Does the survival of newspapers matter?
Newspapers might disappear, but the public service they provide, in whatever form, are absolutely necessary to keeping the public informed in a way that most forms of media cannot do and do not do. Newspapers are easy to criticize, but most of that criticism comes from what readers perceive as the political leanings of the writers, rather than the realization that newspapers are essential to the checks and balances of excessive and corrupt governments and institutions.
Q: The state of journalism today?
Journalism is absolutely under siege, and though we keep hearing that it's actually a good thing that more and more people can practice journalism through blogs, tweets, and other electronic means, it's absolutely a false notion. Great media institutions spend time and money to research, investigate, and publish important stories worthy of the public's attention. If that goes away, we are a poorer society.
Q: In what ways has the industry contributed to its decline?
Many media institutions are not great businesses, and certainly did not foresee the transformation to a digital medium that could be sustained through advertising. And it is absolutely a crazy notion that cutting people and product is somehow going to lead to a more streamlined and efficient business. It just hasn't happened, even as newspapers keep retrenching and hoping that readers won't notice.
Q: Journalism's core mission of holding powerful interests accountable, informing citizens, acting as a watchdog, etc.—how is that faring?
It still remains the core mission. And everyone who works in journalism should absolutely keep it as a core mission. But sadly, it is not being uniformly practiced by any stretch of the imagination except by companies who believe it is their duty to do so. Certainly, The New York Times, The Washington Post, NBC News, ProPublica and other major news organizations practice it on a regular basis, but those are really the exceptions. As budgets are cut, as people are shed from the employment ranks, as experienced journalists are shown the door and gravitate to public relations and government jobs, fewer are serving that core mission.
Q: Your assessment of crowd-sourcing, social media, blogging, wikis?
Wikis, blogs, and social media are useful but will not replace what newspapers can still do today: spend the resources digging into some really tough issues and educating readers with the depth that is necessary to make complex subjects understandable.
Q: What new approaches have you seen?
Digital journalism run by professionals is very exciting because it sheds a very heavy cost structure—and I'm not really worried about the extinction of the print newspaper, so long as it is replaced by an apparatus that is backed by those who believe journalism matters. Civil Beat in Honolulu is very exciting because it is a subscription-run online site that is holding elected officials accountable. Unfortunately, it does not seem to have the kind of mass subscriptions able to make it sustainable.
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