By Chris Daly
The always-interesting Nate Silver, in a recent post, put his finger on a really key issue in journalism: who does the reporting that everyone else fights over, analyzes, re-purposes, aggregates, or just steals?
Silver did some back-of-the-envelope calculations and came up with this chart:
(I must say I am very gratified to see that two of the top 10 — The AP and The Washington Post — are the places were I spent most of my years as a journalist.)
As anyone in the news business could tell you, there are no real surprises here. Silver is trying to identify who does the bulk of the original reporting about national and international affairs for American audiences. (He is not looking here at local news, which is another story.)
Two news organizations in particular stand out, almost in a class by themselves.
First is the AP, the enormous but nearly invisible news organization that still operates in every state in America and most countries around the world. The non-profit cooperative functions as a giant wholesaler of news — gathering, re-writing, shooting, editing, and distributing vast amounts of stories, images, sound, and data every hour of every day. Almost all of AP’s output is delivered to other news organizations, and not directly to the public. So, most people think they “get their news” from whatever retail outlet they happen to frequent, rather than from the ultimate source, which is often the AP.
Number Two on the list is The New York Times. Again, no real surprise. Say what you will about its management, business model, stock price and all the rest, the Times has no real peer among “general news” organizations. (By that, I mean organizations that have a broader sweep than a particular topical niche like business, sports, or celebrities).
The point is worth making again: reporting is expensive (and sometimes dangerous), and the world would be a better place if more people got out, walked around, took notes, made photos, and shared what they found.