Wasserman: Are Page Views Destroying Journalism?

Miami Herald columnist and Knight professor Ed Wasserman tells the story of “a career columnist with career problems”:

Penelope Trunk delivered career advice on Yahoo Finance until two weeks ago, when Yahoo dropped her Brazen Careerist column. Trunk says Yahoo decided the column didn’t draw enough traffic to warrant the premium rates advertisers pay to be in its financial news package. So out she went.

It could be a telling example of online journalism’s new direction, he writes. If news organizations live by the click, they could be killing good journalism:

The problem with online Popularity Pay is it that it mistakes journalism for a consumer product, and conflates value with sales volume. Journalists don’t peddle goods, they offer a professional service, a relationship. The news audience renews that relationship to get information and insight on matters it trusts journalists to alert it to, even though the news may be disquieting or hard to grasp.

It’s a point to ponder, but the venerable Wasserman may have been scooped on this issue. When The New York Times’ most-e-mailed-articles list threatened to tear apart its newsroom, the first — and only — organization to report on it was The Onion.

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