View Full Version : Future of journalism; Cecile's SDC, 2 April 2009 (ADRESSED B CECIL)

04-04-2009, 03:31 PM
Re STRAIGHT DOPE CHICAGO -- 04/02/2009 // "future of journalism".


For a couple of years I've given this subject (the future of journalism, with the advent of the internet) some few seconds of thought, scattered here and there.

I feel that I have at least a small grasp on the dynamics involved (digital publishing and distribution, versus putting ink on paper and delivering by truck and human; unpaid contributors, versus professional staff) and the attendant problems (stressful changes in society and individuals; providing abundant, quality, and timely information to everyone who wants it), and I have some ideas about this subject that would be worth exploring.

I have a whole jumble of thoughts (and biases) on the topic, but I want to make this short.

Just to summarize, I sense that we would be fairly well served if there were journalists who formed worker-cooperatives, and charged subscriptions for internet access to their websites. There should be great opportunity for wiki-like news and opinions, but there would be a core staff of investigative-reporters and editors. The organizations would be many, and each could take a niche to work in (such as size of geography to cover; special fields to cover). Further, it would serve the purpose of honesty if each organization and contributor posted a small block that listed their biases and preferences (such as preserving the status quo; returning to the past; progressing into the future; et cetera).

While almost all of us prefer to have ink-on-paper in our hands to read, that technology seems less economically and ecologically feasible as time goes on, compared to digital production and distribution. Besides, many more organizations and individuals can participate in the digital medium (be more democratic), and many more perspectives would be available.

There necessarily has to be a professional/paid core staff for any news organization to exist over time, with a consistent and quality product. If the subscription process can gain acceptance, the rates might be quite small if there were a large number of subscribers, and the distracting and corrupting advertisements could be eliminated.


04-06-2009, 07:25 AM
Re STRAIGHT DOPE CHICAGO -- 04/02/2009 // "future of journalism".

Are you referencing this: http://chicago.straightdope.com/sdc20090402.php ?



04-06-2009, 09:39 PM
Yes, in fact, that is the correct reference. Thanks.

Ed Zotti
04-07-2009, 02:26 PM
Our experience with subscriptions at TSD is that you can make a little money, but only that. Business pubs like WSJ, where the info is considered to have high intrinsic value, are the exception. Subscriptions won't be the salvation of general-interest publications.

04-08-2009, 12:17 PM
Thanks for the reply, Ed.

I shouldn’t belabor this issue here, as it is probably not the best forum for such. However, I’m something of a thinker, and I like to keep processing the topic every now and then, so I’ll chip in a few more words.

(Caveat: I have NO faith that my thoughts are necessarily “good” ones — they are merely “speculations” — in need of review, and possible “testing”.)

If you’ll forgive me, my personal concern is not so much for the general-interest publications, but sources of what we think of as “news”, “analysis”, and “investigative reporting”.

Until Baby Bush started the Iraq War, I was walking along pretty sleepily, and accepting the status quo of news-information. Since March of 2003 (and actually before that, somewhat) I’ve come to more and more see intrinsic problems in the field of “news”.

I see it as a problem when there are few investigative reporters (even “muckrakers”) who take an “oppositional view” to government and other seats of power. I see it as a problem that the spectrum of views, overall, is quite limited. I see it as a problem (as Cecile pointed out) to rely on “volunteers” to supply information in a timely, vetted and reviewed manner — building and maintaining reputations for honesty, etc., over time.

I see it as a problem when the funding for news even has a hint of influence on the end result — I feel that all sources of funding from vested interests are suspect. Wealthy donors/publishers, governments, advertisers: they are all suspect. Anything that can be thought of as “for profit” is suspect.

So, how might we get anything approaching an “ideal” means of supplying news?

Maybe there isn’t any such means, but I’ve been casting about in my little head for some possibilities.

The internet (or was one of my friends calls it, “the intertubes” — a take-off of Senator Ted Stevens) certainly has a lot of promise, in part because it eliminates the need for large sums of money to either print or broadcast information; and it makes a very wide distribution possible, instantly. Yes?

What seems needed are multiple “core groups” of reporters and editors (and to a lesser extent, analysts), who are self-chartered and dedicated to their task — a situation that, in itself, doesn’t seem far-fetched.

Perhaps many of such “news-cells” (each with their own niche or bent) could form a consortium that served as the business operation — of collecting from subscribers, and distributing money to the content-providers.

Now, part of the current problem is that right now just about every internet user “expects” that the content will be free, and would be very reluctant to part with a few pesos, even for high-quality and reliable (and friendly) material.

Well, the traditional media is contracting and consolidating, and ink-on-paper publishing is going to become extinct sooner or later. Should news be supplied by only a couple of corporations, and/or the government? I don’t think so!

Maybe we’ll need some enlightened, vigorous, and deep-pocketed philanthropists to get such a thing started, but I intuit that a large consortium (or many) could ask for relatively small amounts of subscription-fees from a very large audience, to provide a comfortable wage to the (relatively few) professional journalists involved. (And, of course, there should be some provision to providing “content” to the destitute, in some way.)

Once such an subscription-arrangement was more common, then it would likely to proceed to become the principle model (I think).

Who knows? Maybe if such enterprises took hold, there would be plenty of opportunity for “general-interest publications” as well?

Ed Zotti
04-08-2009, 11:46 PM
It's not out of the question that investigative reporting could be supported by philanthropy. I don't see that happening for routine reporting. I think a new business model will emerge for online local news media in the next couple years, but I don't see it supporting revenues much above $25 million annually. That'll support a small editorial contingent, but nothing like the newsrooms of old.

C K Dexter Haven
05-23-2009, 05:39 PM
Cecil has addressed Ishmael directly: http://chicago.straightdope.com/sdc20090430.php ... Consequently, I've edited the title of this thread.

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