Thursday, February 04, 2010

News matters

I no longer subscribe to a daily newspaper. I once had dual sources of news delivered to the house. Then it was down to one, and for the past two years, my news tube, sitting lonely at the edge of the road, serves as a beacon and reminder of what once was.

I still enjoy news, and reading good writing. I find my news fix online, as many people now do. I also enjoy keeping up on what's going on as print journalism changes, with some saying that it is spiraling to its death.

A regular source for reading about the media has become the Columbia Journalism Review. I even think I'm breaking down and adding a subscription (as a replacement for my expired WSJ news allowance).

A recent article on how newspapers alienate those (like mine did with me) that actually read them, by Lisa Anderson, was particularly good. I also thought this comment was pertinent to the piece, by someone that posts as MB. This person compares the demise of newspapers to the Dust Bowl of the 1930s, an interesting analogy, I thought, and one I've never considered:

So I've given this whole issue a lot of thought and my current take on the situation is to not buy into the myth that technology killed the newspapers. I am now looking at the newspaper crisis as like that of the Dust Bowl in the '30's. The Dust Bowl was an agrarian, human, and economic catastrophe that had multiple consequences and causes. But no one would ever say that our civilization no longer needs farming or its products because the economic model failed in the 1930's. The Dust Bowl was caused by climate change in combination with damaging farming practices such as the failure to rotate crops. Their drought might be comparable to the collapse of advertising which supported print media so well for so long. And as farming developed an exploitative relationship with the land, it may be fair to say that media consolidation resulted in comparable consequences that could not sustain good journalism when the soil dried up and the wind blew away the shallow roots.

One enduring aftermath of the Dust Bowl is the collapse of family farms and the rise of giant agri-business, which Michael Pollan links so compellingly to our nation's energy and obesity crises. Good journalism might be comparable to the practice of crop rotation; it's failure might be one important factor contributing to journalism's dust bowl. I think an overlooked climate change issue is the collapse of advertising which may have been a canary in the economic coal mine suggesting that the real economy began to decline much earlier than its official onset in 2007/2008 (and might be far worse than officially acknowledged). If our culture shifts swiftly and entirely to electronic media, I believe we will experience troubling outcomes such as an unwitting apartheid of important information that reaches the desk-based workforce but leaves out other, important groups of our population. So I recognize the significance of the disruptive changes of our time but it's too easy to blame the internet.

If you are a fan of Twitter, Jay Rosen's feed there is another good source for staying current on the conversation about all things media.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Who cares what you think about anything, you asshat.