Friday, June 5, 2009

A Paperless Society? -OR- Easier Sure, But Better? Not So Much

The death of Newspapers has not gone unnoticed. It has, however, gone unexamined and underwhelmingly unlamented. The times they are a-changing. Is it wrong to wonder if this is for the better?

Most people seem to agree that we've progressed beyond the need to hold and read a dead-tree edition. They point to the faithful readers of such things as Luddites; anachronisms unwilling or unable to embrace the technology of today. I think they're missing a few important aspects of print journalism that have yet to be successfully integrated into the virtual versions and have over-estimated the public's ability to discern the trivial from the important, its willingness to seek out the information they need and the perspective to know REAL facts from made up crap.

It's a tough slog to put out any kind of print edition. You need writers, underwriters (advertisers/angels), layout and production departments, a circulation structure, retail outlets and consumers. Oh yeah, and you need new content for each new edition. So of course, there must be editors/publishers to oversee the operation, assign the tasks, work with sources, prioritize the feeds and press releases, provide precious objectivity input across the process. Then tear it down and start all over from scratch.

No question, virtual editions are easier. The question is how to bring the same resources and talent to bear without losing the vital ingredients and nutrients a growing society requires to feed its intellectual needs.

We're already a fast-food nation with obvious consequences. This new fast-news nation
carries some consequences that will be more difficult to overcome. Most of the news we REALLY need isn't glitzy or tasty. Publishing the facts and information without a discernable slant or bias isn't as easy as it sounds. What makes it into a print edition is, in itself, a slant/bias. Where it appears, how it is headlined, placement on the page, and other editorial/layout decisions prioritize some and marginalize other items.

This is all introduced in Journalism 101.

Website based news is different from journalism is one important aspect. It's news on an etch-a-sketch. No paper trail. No official, indelible record. Websites can be scrubbed, purged, hacked, spoofed, altered and/or completely deleted. It's out there, but not in the same ways as a print edition.

As more and more pillars of print journalism are repurposed toward online efforts, their position as pillars shift. Most readers of print versions don't weigh the implications of their daily habit or the function is serves in our society. They're not aware that the very act of buying the paper has an impact on actions, events and outcomes.

Decisions are being made today. Discussions are taking place right now about the future of print media. In many markets it's being decided that the old ways are too expensive. Costs are being cut. Efforts are being scaled back. Coverage is being debated. The public's interests are being examined. For the most part, journalists and the public aren't active participants in the process.

This might explain why I feel like Lurch did when Gomez and Morticia were about to do something ill-advised, but it seemed like a good idea to them.


Suzan said...

The print media will resume its rightward march after the necessary bankruptcies are declared (to protect the guilty) with an even smaller group of rich owners who will tell us what they want us to know.


Blogtopia lives (presently) on borrowed time.


Larue said...

Hoss, since '76 and my junior college broadcast training and curriculum I was taught basic principles.

Working for an NPR and PBS affiliate from '76 to '84 or so, I learnt about changes.

Those changes came from watering down legislation such as Equal Time and Fairness Doctrine.

And then the changes came from Reagan and Clinton, decades apart, to eliminate regs on ownership rulings.

And MOFO Clear Channel made it's move as radio groups sold out, and NPR and PBS were regrouped and consolidated.

And now it's all shit on the airwaves.


That died long ago . . . about the time a valiant pro laid it out on the line for Iran/Contra, and died after that.

Gary Webb. Google that shit.

There's no journalism anymore.

The MSM is a govt shill for the govt and for big biz.

Ask Sibel Edmonds . .

Anyhoots, yer a prince, and a joy to read.

Don't ever stop.