You know it’s bad when the newspapers are saying that the president’s afraid. A WashPo column on Sunday claims that President Obama, a “big newspaper junkie” is afraid he might not have the printed word at his disposal any more. If the big nationals and locals go where they’re expected to go, he’ll have to seek his news from the blogs.
The story quotes the prez:
“I am concerned that if the direction of the news is all blogosphere, all opinions, with no serious fact-checking, no serious attempts to put stories in context, that what you will end up getting is people shouting at each other across the void but not a lot of mutual understanding.”
Of course, this quote — and the journo who used it — overlooks the fact that blogs use crowd sourced fact-checking, which is both highly effective and delivered in real time. When a blogger on a highly trafficked blog makes a mistake, the comments mount quickly, with some rational (and some irrational) readers hurling accusations, offering corrections and sometimes merely raising questions.
In the event of a print error, which isn’t as rare as we’d all love to believe, it can take days for a correction to appear — months for some magazines. By then, the remedy is so far from the mistake that it’s basically meaningless.
The major concern appears to be the decimation within existing newsrooms rather than the loss of full publications. The newspapers can’t do the jobs they used to. As the WashPo story puts it:
“International bureaus, statehouse bureaus and Washington bureaus are being shuttered as media companies abandon the duty of telling citizens what is done in their name but, increasingly, without their informed consent.”
When you think about it, though, those services were unsustainable. If you can’t make money with the existing model, do you fight to keep an unprofitable enterprise alive? It sure seems that way sometimes, especially with all the money we’ve pumped into the auto industry.
Without some sort of relief for the newspaper industry, we’re apparently left with “minimal news sources” — c’mon — “for the first time in American history.” This statement overlooks the fact that Thomas Paine was more blogger than newsman, and he set the standard for using the published word to affect both government and society.
And, we have more than minimal sources. The number of blogs is increasing daily. Citizens are capturing news as it happens and reporting it via Twitter and Facebook statuses. This is not “a threat to the American experiment.” Rather, it’s the next logical step in it.
We don’t need subsidies for newspapers that are more committed to dismal operations than they are to informing the American public. Instead, we need American ingenuity applied to the business of communicating the news. Not only do subsidies equate to influence — if a free press trip is a threat to my objectivity, just think of what a direct government subsidy to a newspaper means — but they perpetuate a clear and obvious problem.
[Photo by hyperscholar via Flickr]