Thursday, May 29, 2008

The Future Of News

E & P has some interesting thoughts on the future of print journalism and web-based news delivery. Here's one more good reason to stop buying print editions:
There are environmental concerns about supporting a product that consumes precious resources: trees for the product and oil for delivery. Continuing to receive printed newspapers delivered by pollution-spewing delivery vehicles when an environmentally friendly digital alternative is available is also a moral choice that a growing number of people will make in the years ahead, as the Green movement continues to gain momentum.
The author describes a bunch of high-tech news delivery options which he believes can be used to generate enough income to keep newspapers afloat. For example, customize-able mobile phone headline-alert services, integration with other online services and platforms, and exploiting news provided by external content providers such as independent bloggers.
I think you can charge for some of these services, and people like me will pay for them. Paying for convenience is more likely to be a successful strategy than paying for the content.
Really? I am not so sure. A lot of column space is given over to such discussions about the future of newspapers and news organisations. In much of this discussion, the corporate survival aspect is (usually implicitly) considered more important than the survival of the news industry's primary role: the dissemination of FACTS (*) throughout the community.

(* Not propaganda, or titillating entertainment, or covert advertising, but FACTS: true, objective, independently-verifiable FACTS.)

From society's point of view, it doesn't really matter whether the BUSINESS of news delivery survives or not, as long as people still have access to the news. So how will you get your news in the future, unless some company with professional journalists delivers it to you? Will governments take over the role as a kind of free (taxpayer-funded) community service? Or will moguls like Rupert Murdoch (who already runs much of his news empire at a loss, subsidized by other business areas) be left to fulfill this important social role?

I don't have the answer. But surely the past eight years have taught us the importance of unbiased news. And surely the first step towards a better future is to hold those who fail to provide such unbiased news accountable?