There was a time when the menu at fast food joints like McDonald’s and Jack-in-the-Box were simple: french fries, burgers and soda.  Now McDonald’s boasts over 100 menu items. While Jack-in-the-Box has been experimenting with items from soy tacos to teriyaki bowls. Because lets face it, they’re businesses. They’re always having to reinvent themselves, just like newspapers are doing now.

John Cutter from the Orlando Sentinel talked about how newspapers have been shifting away from the traditional print and how reporters’ roles have been evolving. Because essentially, as Cutter pointed out (and as much as I, and maybe other reporters, would hate to admit it), the newspaper industry is a business.

A hamburger isn’t just a hamburger at most restaurants anymore. In the same way, reporters are no longer just reporters. They have to be amateur photographers, videographers, TV personnels, copy editors, online editors, multimedia specialists, social networking gurus . . .

It’s the same with news publications. Gone are the days of simple print, when there was focus and quality. When front page news were a big deal. Now they do everything they can to try to cater to the masses. And if they could somehow justify it, they might make soy tacos too.

Have you tried Jack’s soy tacos? If you haven’t, I wouldn’t say you’re missing out. When any business tries to do too many things, they have the disadvantage of not being able to produce one quality thing. In-and-Out burger on the west coast hasn’t changed its menu much over the last half century. They focus only on quality burgers and fries. And their business is still a success.

Can news outlets and reporters go back to pre-new-media days and still succeed? Some would say that new media has been beneficial for news. Now people can get free news whenever, however, and from whomever they want. They can follow organizations, specifca beats or people on twitter or facebook, or have news sent to their email. But at what cost?

There was probably point somewhere in recent history when a news outlet or an individual decided it would be a good idea to create free online news. But this has caused an avalanche of competition leading to news organizations running out of business. As Chris Ma, vice president of innovations and product development shared during a seminar with a some University of Maryland grad students students last semester, studies show that people respond to ads in print newspapers more than they do online. And advertisers know this. How then can the news industry stay in business when there is no revenue?