05/26/2005 08:00 am ET Updated May 25, 2011

Journalism's Bad News

The heads of journalism schools at Columbia, Berkeley, and elsewhere are joining forces to "elevate the standing of journalism in academia and find ways to prepare journalists better," as today's Times puts it. Orville Schell, the dean at Berkeley's journalism school, says that journalism is in crisis.

Maybe. But I don't think the crisis has anything to do with Newsweek and the Koran, or the Times and Jayson Blair, or Dan Rather and CBS, or the use of anonymous sources, or any of the other high-profile journalistic crimes and misdemeanors bloggers get all worked up about.

Those may be the issues as people outside the business, and particularly Internet partisans, see it. But most journalists I know are more concerned about the fact that the audience for serious journalism is vanishing faster than the polar ice cap. Newspaper circulation is slipping away. Fewer and fewer people watch the evening news. Nightline is toast. The number of national magazines publishing narrative journalism is, maybe, ten. Young journalists today aspire to run a blog, appear on VH1 to flack US magazine, or "write" for Maxim. If Hunter Thompson weren't already cremated, he'd be spinning in his grave.

People in the media are intensely self-critical, more so than in any other industry I know of, and their initial reaction is to blame themselves. They've lost the public trust! They need focus groups!

But what if—contrary to Steven Johnson—Americans are just too addicted to their entertainment to pay attention to journalism?