Civil Liberties

They Saved the News Today, Oh Boy….


Did you miss John Kerry's super-duper Senate committee hearings on "The Future of Journalism" yesterday? You can click the link for the gory details, or jump to the statement by Thurston Howell III John D. Rockefeller IV:

But what happens when our watchdog grows mute and can no longer bark?  When newspapers, slice their staff and slash their news operations?  What happens is that we all suffer. […]

In this new evolving world, trusted sources, adhering to the fact-checking mores of traditional journalism, are often too few and far between.  The important and time-consuming work of investigative reporting may lack the institutional support it needs to thrive.  Uneven access in to the Internet in some communities is a trouble that needs to be addressed.  And then there are the unquantifiable losses.  The daily promise of unfolding a newspaper, rustling its pages, and letting your eye dance across the page and survey its offerings is a pleasure, I fear, our next generation will not know.

Or maybe you want to read, um, Arianna Huffington's testimony [pdf]? Or just get the navel-gazing straight from the source….

Me, I prefer my cranky friend and newspaper new-media pioneer Howard Owens, who is busy spearheading a fascinating community-journalism experiment at The Batavian.

Why didn't I watch Senate hearing today? Because I'm busy working on journalism's future, not worrying about it's past. […]

There's a whole host of proposals out there to "save" newspapers that any real capitalist should find not only laughable but horrifying.

Let's be clear: If a newspaper can't compete in the free market it's not worth saving. If a newspaper needs aid from the government to survive, it's not worth saving.

A newspaper is a business, just like any other business. It's not a church. It's not a social services agency. It's not a civic organization.  It's a business.

When a business model is broken, or a strategy is flawed, or time has just passed it by, that business – even whole industries — die. It's a process of evolution. It's necessary for the ecosystem of society.

Journalism will not die, though every newspaper might stop printing and some companies that now spew ink to tell the news will cease. Journalism will not die. […]

The only thing that will save journalism is the free market. Any other solution will lead to ossification and ultimately will greatly damage democracy, because citizens will become only more jaded and distrustful of a press that through government-backed monopoly power suppress entrepreneurial competitors. […]

I shouldn't have to compete against media companies that are given government favor through changing anti-trust laws or granted special privileges.

The free market should decide what journalism will be in the future, not some gray-haired Senator or government bureaucrat.