FishbowlDC Interview With Knight Kiplinger

Say hello to Knight Kiplinger, Editor in Chief, Kiplinger publishing (Kiplinger Letters, Kiplinger’s Personal Finance magazine, Kiplinger.com). We spoke by phone this morning just after he did his ritualistic yoga exercises. He spends 20 minutes each morning doing stretches and poses to put himself in a good frame of mind. “I don’t watch much TV,” he noted quickly into the call, saying the Fishbowl interview wasn’t necessarily ideal for someone who doesn’t watch a lot of TV. (We’ll keep that in mind.) “I’m not older than dirt, but I came up through newspaper journalism and print journalism so that’s kind of my bias in my news diet.” Asked about the current state of journalism, Kiplinger’s thoughts are enlightening. POLITICO reporters, you may want to stop reading now. “I think we’ve seen the decline of careful consideration, the emphasis is on quick response, the immediate reaction,” Kiplinger said. “The best journalism is not always the fast journalism. The first analysis is often not carefully considered. Good journalism takes time. It takes reporting. We’ve seen a decline of in-depth reporting. A newspaper reporter had eight or ten hours to do hard reporting, deep reporting, talking to many, many sources before writing a story. The internet has forced everyone to work faster and that sometimes undercuts journalistic quality. So that is the problem.” Here’s the point where WaPo‘s Ezra Klein should stop reading. “These days a lot of young journalists, they all want to be columnists, giving the world their opinions,” he said. “Journalists try to build themselves into a brand, into a marketable entity that can move from periodical to periodical. Of course, that’s what columnists have always done.” Kiplinger sees danger signs. “With too much emphasis on celebrity, the content of journalism gets short shrift. A bigger threat to quality journalism is the unwillingness of young adults to pay for journalism. Older adults will still pay for content. They comprise the subscription-paying readership.” Kiplinger still gets two newspapers at home: WaPo and TWT. At the office he reads WSJ and NYT. “I look through them very rapidly,” he says of WaPo and TWT, saying he prefers to read them in print than online and can do so faster. He particularly enjoys WaPo‘s Metro section. He’s also a relentless reader of obituaries. “In my next life I am going to be an obit writer,” he says. Moving along, he has grave concerns about the industry: “Revenue on internet is not sustaining high quality journalism,” he said. But on a positive note, he added, “the internet has given everyone [a medium]…that is a powerful force, a positive force. This trend will continue.” On the future of journalism: “There will be fewer jobs in traditional journalism for young journalists who want to be the reporter, who want to tell the story of modern life. I don’t want to sound like a curmudgeon. We’re in the throws of a great democratization of media. Editing today is a luxury many media feel they can’t afford. You don’t have the level of trust that you once had. Traditional media were gatekeepers to information. They were the mandarins who selected what they thought the public needed to know.” Kiplinger is on Twitter, but he’s not enthralled by it. “Yeah I tweet,” he said. “If you went to my Twitter account you’d see I tweet infrequently. I try to restrain my tweets to kind of broader observations about things going on in the economy. I work very hard to condense and distill. I don’t have a Twitter support staff as a lot of semi-celebrity journalists do.” As an aside, he notes…“There are some people who think I am a celebrity. I just think I’m an ink-stained wretch. I’m not a hyperactive tweeter.” On family…He’s a longtime choral singer and met his wife in the Washington Chorus in 1979. Incidentally, his daughter also met her fiance in the Washington Chorus (a detail reported in WaPo earlier this week). Facebook? “I don’t do Facebook at all. I don’t think the world is that interested in my daily life, and even if they are, I don’t want to share it with them.” Finally, I asked…what one piece of wisdom should every journalist know? He replied, “There’s no substitute for hard reporting.”