Is there anything the internet can’t kill? The Global Mail, despite its quality, looks like being Australia’s Google+. Meh.
The state of journalism in Australia is so dire that it is tempting to conclude that, rather than try and rescue it by somehow reinventing the business model destroyed by the internet, it would be better to just let it die and allow whatever is going to take its place take its place.
This is a fantasy I have indulged in myself.
And in this era of communication nirvana, where the technology now exists for “everyone” to be a “publisher”, it is easy to convince yourself that “something else” is inevitable.
This is a point I’ve made before, including in The Drum, where I argued in favour of paying for news:
In a market as small as Australia, no begging-bowl, alternative new-media operation is ever likely to have the financial wherewithal needed to do the sort of journalism a democracy needs done.
Constant, day-to-day, up-to-minute, comprehensive, fair, balanced, accurate and compelling journalism that can hold power to account is the work of big, mutha-fuquing corporations, not half-a-dozen well-meaning people and the smell of an oily rag in somebody’s spare room.
This prompted a response from former journalist Jonathan Oake that captured what a lot of others have said to me. The argument is that a combination of whistle-blowers, enthusiastic amateurs (citizen journalists), crowdsourcing, and the new technology will eventually generate the sort of quality journalism we now expect to come from the mainstream media.
He concludes: “Demand for journalism is as strong as ever. There’s no reason to think the market won’t supply this, and in fact it’s already happening. Short newspaper companies/long journalism.”
In other words, sell your shares in newspaper companies and the market will find the “something else” that gets you your quality journalism.
He even uses the example of The Guardian’s exposure of News International’s corrupt practices in Britain as an example of how this might work. I would argue the News of the World scandal shows the exact opposite.
Without the institutional clout of The Guardian itself the story would’ve died.
It was not only the willingness of The Guardian to fund — for years — Nick Davies’ initially fruitless investigations, it was also its institutional gravitas and its ability to withstand the blowback from News International itself, that allowed the stories to have the cumulative impact they had.
Yes, an enthusiastic amateur citizen journalist might have been able to unearth what Nick Davies unearthed (though I’d like someone to explain where they would’ve got the sources and resources to do that) but even if they had, the story would’ve amounted to nothing unless it was given exposure by a major media company.
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