Gone are the days when the vast majority of the public was collectively comforted by Walter Cronkite and other legendary news anchors. Technology alone did not drive this new age of splintered interest, where many people – and many more each day – draw their news from a number of sources, many of which are likely online.
A new report by the Project for Excellence in Journalism warns that these trends and the resulting loss of audience and revenue for traditional media companies are driving a phenomenon that it calls hyper-localism, "…'hyper-local' coverage in newspapers; encouraging citizen journalism on the Internet; and giving rise to opinion-driven television personalities like CNN's Lou Dobbs and Fox News' Bill O'Reilly."
There is a danger if most people truly choose to get their news from a narrow channel of "hyper-local" sources. Jon Stewart likes to joke that members of his influential audience only get their news from The Daily Show, for instance. Likewise, if someone chose to believe the gospel of Al Franken or Rush Limbaugh without visiting a single other news source, that would likely not be a good thing.
However, the reality is that now that the choices are many, people are finding a full and rich palette of news sources and are able to cobble together their own version of the truth of the whole on their own. This undoubtedly frightens traditional media companies, but in the end the trend is a good one in that people have the freedom to utilize print, television, radio, and online sources in any way they wish. And while traditional newsroom staffs in the United States are sadly shrinking due to budgetary concerns, it is still possible for people to find an enormous amount of high quality news reporting (in aggregate more than ever before, most likely).
Excellence in journalism will never go out of style. The way in which people find and access and integrate that journalism into their understanding of the world will likely forever be on the move, and that's a good thing in most ways.