Pixel Envy

Written by Nick Heer.

John Oliver Isn’t Responsible for Saving Journalism

You’ve probably seen Sunday’s Last Week Tonight piece on the current state of journalism and, well, Tronc.

Well, the Newspaper Association of America didn’t like it very much. CEO David Chavern responded in a blog post:1

Whatever you think of the name “tronc” and that company’s announced growth strategy, at least they are trying new things and trying to figure out how to create great news journalism in the digital era. John Oliver doesn’t seem to have any better ideas.

Joe Amditis of the Center for Cooperative Media replies:

Another reason it’s hard to take Chavern’s blog post seriously is the fact that Oliver isn’t making fun of Tronc because they decided to try something new. He’s making fun of them because they’re overlooking one of the most valuable journalistic assets, a genuine relationship with your audience, in favor of “content funnels” and “a story portfolio of storytelling.”

One of the more depressing losses on the business side of the news is the demise of the advertisement as a functional piece of art. Ads used to be beautiful because they had to be beautiful — if you’re a business paying thousands or tens of thousands of dollars for a full colour back-page ad, you’re going to want to make it the most memorable and compelling visual it can be.

By devaluing the advertisement to online levels, both print and digital advertising has suffered. Instead of gorgeous visuals, we’re typically shown whatever can be put together efficiently and cheaply. Instead of compelling visitors to interact with ads through temptation, advertising has become forceful, with full-page takeovers and animations complete with sound effects.


  1. You’d think that the president of the Newspaper Association of America would have a more apt way to extoll the virtues of newspapers, but hey. ↩︎