Sunday, January 11, 2009

The Next Generation of News Junkies

Will grow up not knowing what a daily print newspaper is.* Looks like The Seattle Post-Intelligencer will be but the first giant to fall. (Deets here and here).

A large part of this has to do with publishers' inability to adapt a centuries old business model to a new millennium (i.e. finding a way to make the internet pay without completely alienating readers à la TimesSelect). Yet had they done so, the paper newspaper was still doomed. Our economic crisis and the resulting plummet in advertising revenue greatly accelerated the pace.

I confess to reading rags online each and everyday. Nothing could be more convenient. I scan The NY Times, WaPo, The Boston Globe, The Guardian, The LA Times, etc., without leaving my home and without adding to my ever unmanageable recycling bin. The search function saves time while allowing me to access archives too.

Nevertheless, an internet edition does not provide the same experience as thumbing through an actual, physical newspaper. There's a certain Zen quality to this ritual. These days I'm find myself wondering how many stories of interest I miss by not skimming the ol' gazette page by page.

If you think your newspaper and TV newscasts suck now, there are major implications inherent to the death of the print newspaper. Tops on my list:

  1. Drastic cuts to both broadcast & print media newsrooms/bureaus worldwide have already caused the quality and depth of reporting to suffer. This will only get worse.
  2. How many times have you seen newspaper reporters on TV explaining stories they broke and/or broadcast news missed? Say bye-bye.
  3. We will rely on more news from fewer credible sources.
  4. Fewer credible news sources allows information to be that much more easily controlled and manipulated by corporations, special interest groups and governments.
  5. Fewer news sources means reporting errors & omissions go unnoticed & uncorrected for longer periods of time if at all.
  6. All kindsa huge decisions (diplomacy, politics, economics, health...) may be made on the basis of incomplete context, inaccurate information and/or flat-out propaganda.
There's a more personal aspect to this seismic paradigm shift that I find difficult to express. It has to do with how despite the marvel of the Internet, I feel in many ways our world becomes a colder, duller, smaller place by the minute.

Or maybe I'm just old.


*I can't help but be reminded of how the advent of the MP3 seemingly doomed the phonograph. But unlike my beloved turntable, the new breed will not come to dig a superior old skool product.