Monday, October 09, 2006

A Conversation with Naomi Jacobs

In a conversation with Naomi Jacobs, author of The Builder’s Daughter, a book recently published that chronicles her Jewish European ancestry and multi-faceted life journeys, she discussed with me the changing world of writing and journalism. As a longtime Los Angeles native, she is an avid newspaper reader and cspan watcher. Jacobs is one of the few readers left who sits aside their breakfast table, opens up the paper, and like a good book reads it cover to cover.

She responded to one of my blog entries on the changing world of the media and newspapers. “The media, newspapers and journalists—that is the key subject of our times. The newspapers are in trouble—they blame everyone, but they are doing a terrible job,” she said.

Jacobs has seen newspapers evolve from the late 1920’s to the current 21st century. I think that getting feedback from people in her generation is invaluable to our understanding of newspapers and the reader’s desires and needs. Sure, it is important to strive for convergent journalism and find a niche to attract readers, but isn’t it still important to reach out to those who are used to good old fashion hard hitting journalism? Shouldn’t journalists and newspaper folk try and help people who aren’t so quick to adjust to the citizen journalism boom? Don’t we have a responsibility to provide our grandparents with the necessary tools to keep up with their Internet savvy grandchildren?

These questions cannot be forgotten while newspapers run alongside blogs and live journals, trying to reach that finish line with them, but leaving their dedicated but slower counterparts behind.

Jacobs says that current newspapers are advertising mediums and not news informants or news analysis or even investigative reporting. She said, “The news if you can find it is on page 9 in the LA Times. No wonder so many people have cancelled their subscriptions. The television stations and newspapers are not independent anymore and are owned by large conglomerates. It used to be that television had to devote so much time free for news—not anymore. The only advertiser free programs are c-spanl and c-span2, which are owned by the cable companies and provide public service programs.”

This mother/ grandmother/ author/ playwright/ active member of the Jewish community, among other things, gave me her opinion on the changing business of journalism. Jacobs expressed, “The internet is providing competition because it is immediate, but the newspapers can still survive if they expanded the news rather than limiting it. Journalists are in for a rough time. That it why so many reporters are writing books about their experiences.”

According to Jacobs, journalism is necessary and vital for the continuance of an educated and informed society. “The journalists are keeping free speech and thought alive in this country because they try to get to the truth---they are the real heroes.”


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