Tuesday, 4 August 2009

The Future of Journalism???

Some time ago I wrote out some thoughts on what might be done to save the newspaper, essentially a coming together of newspapers in sort of a cable TV model, i.e., where one pays for access to any and all of the sources, and where revenue is split according to proportion of page clicks. Since then I've realized that I'm not alone in making this suggestion. For instance, David Simon has been arguing for the newspapers to do essentially the same thing and lobbying to get an antitrust exemption exactly for these purposes. Personally, I like the idea because it retains newspapers in something like the function, if not the same form, we have now, i.e., a relatively independent group beholden to no one doing the kind of job that we once envisioned newspapers doing.

On the other side, we have, well, a lot of people. A lot of people oppose efforts at walling off content, and, relatedly, of obligating news aggregators to cough up fees. I've been following King Kauffman, who used to write a brilliant sports column for Salon, and Katherine Mieszkowski's blog: The Future of Journalism. They've been fairly critical of the David Simons and even the Ian Shapiras (who recently complained that Gawker was stealing his content). But, I'd think and sometimes even comment, what in the world do we propose in their stead? Are bloggers ever going to provide the kind of painstaking journalism which Simon has described? Will amateur bloggers ever break a Watergate? Well, I was assured, you're assuming they'd be amateurs, maybe they'll be paid, this is America, we're full of ingenuity, we'll find a way to monetize. Don't worry.

Ah, yes, well, apparently they've found it. According to a tweet from Kauffman and an article in their blog, the "future of journalism" may very well be what is described in this article: "From a Texas Small Town and a Bedding Company, the Future of Journalism, Marketing, or Both". The article discusses a corporate sponsored blog, in which some former journalist is now paid by Carpenter Company to write about Stephenville, TX. Yup, that's the future of journalism, that's why we can all laugh at David Simon and say's he's just being paranoid and standing in the way of progress. We've found a way to monetize. We can now safety let the newspapers die. Good riddance ya bums and don't let the door hit you on the way out But what about independence of the press? Oh, don't worry, the article assures us, "Dan's free to chronicle small town life as he sees fit. So he roams Stephenville, capturing residents' hopes and dreams and idiosyncrasies and taking literal and figurative snapshots" Yeah, sure he's free. And I'm sure the town can look forward to his hard-edged articles on, for example, how questionable corporate practices at the town's largest employer affects the residents of Stephenville. Mieskowski bizarrely dismisses this kind of potential conflict as Hollywood fantasy, "But this is real life." Um, yeah, you got me there.

You thought GE telling Olbermann to shutup was bad? You ain't seen nothing yet.

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