Monday, January 7, 2013

A Free Press is Harming America


"The Truth May Set You Free" - but when the News is free to read
- do you eventually kill the truth?
It has been the Press that has taken us from being storytellers to
historians and put random events in context with thought provoking  
deeper meanings.
A free and vibrant press and an army of journalists have proven
to be a far more powerful force for freedom than any shot fired or
battlefield won!
But in an age where we get informed by a free link on Twitter or an
inquiry on Google Search - are we still willing to pay for the "Times" and
the "Newsweeks" of the world to educate us? Or, are we willing to risk
paying a much higher price?
The transition of the iconic image of the Newspaper delivery boy being
replaced by a news icon on an Ipad, has threatened the art of journalism
in a way that Richard Nixon couldn't have imagined when "All The President's
Men" were undone by the Press during Watergate or what China does today
with their failed and incessant censorship.
Who would have thought the best way to silence the Press is by having everyone  
else's voices be heard.
Today, it is no longer what to report or not to report... the only boundary
is who reports it first. Whether it be a TMZ or your Aunt Shirley... everyone's
a reporter, but it doesn't mean that everyone is a journalist. You can read
an article about smog or an op-ed by the Wall Street Journal's John Fogg - and all the average reader knows - is that he is not going to pay to read it on your blog!
Unlike newspapers...television continues to make a successful move from an
analog advertising based model to a digital paid subscription format. It has
not been a question of whether money can still be made...but more of who
is going to make the money!
Television advertisers still pay 3 million dollars for a 30 second spot during
the Super Bowl - customers pay the subscription rates they demand or a fee
to watch on the Web.
On the other hand, advertisers have slowly abandoned newspapers with
classified revenue moving to Craigslist and daily coupon sales inundating
Groupon - and customers have resisted paying enough in subscription fees
when there is so much content for free!
According to a recent article in the WSJ - Radio went through a similar period in 1948 of finding the right balance and business model between free now and
pay later, when unionized musicians were no longer being hired to play live on
the radio and went on strike to protest all the free recorded music being played
almost 24 hours a day. No new music was recorded for more than a year until
the radio stations and record companies agreed to pay the musicians royalties
for their recorded music.
Imagine if there were no journalists for a year...it wouldn't mean there was no
news for a year - but it could very well mean that there would be a vast diminishment  
of a search for the truth in the news for that year...no matter how good Aunt
Shirley might be!
There have been discussions in Europe that anytime authored content appears on the
internet that a Google or a website must pay a royalty to the author of that content in
a similar fashion to musicians collecting royalties.
If a Google can only exist because people create content - then sharing the advertising
revenue that content creates a demand for...will probably need to be a part of the
new business model that will allow Newspapers and journalists to survive.
As the industry searches for answers there have been casualties along the way. The New Orleans daily newspaper, The Times-Picayune, is now printing only 3 days a week and the larger Cleveland Plains Dealer may not be far behind. The venerable New York Times has sold off assets in order to pay creditors. The Chicago Tribune is coming out of bankruptcy, and Rupert Murdoch closed down his expensive online experiment called "The Daily".
Newspapers and journalists have become an integral a part of our democracy by being
the very defender of the democracy that it reports on! Maybe it's time we work hard
at defending them!
It would be a shame that we rally around "Big Bird" but we stay silent on the guys who
keep an eye on "Big Government".
Otherwise we might be insuring that newspapers will be performing for itself the vital
function that it still does on a daily basis for everyone else...the writing of its own obituary!!!

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