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Newspaper bailout?

May 13, 2009 _ 12:00 / Digital Nation Team / comments (0)

With traditional newspapers struggling in the digital age, some pundits have pondered the possibility of a bailout for the industry. Last week, Sen. John Kerry brought the issue to the fore with a hearing on the "Future of Journalism". Could it come in the form of a tax cut? The Seattle Times reports:

Gov. Chris Gregoire has approved a tax break for the state's troubled newspaper industry. The new law gives newspaper printers and publishers a 40 percent cut in the state's main business tax. The discounted rate mirrors breaks given in years past to the Boeing Co. and the timber industry.

Last month, I asked readers here if the Internet hurts journalism. Here are some of their responses:

  • My sense is that the Internet has advanced awareness and the ability of the populace to become aware of events around them. It facilitates conversation and idea sharing. It makes users far more conversant with all that is new in the world. It changes the media most visited, and the venues most easily supported, but it gets more people involved.

    That is not to say that it makes people more knowledgeable. Becoming more knowledgeable takes work on the part of the consumer. It takes time to decide what assertions are more likely to be relevant and true, and what sources are generally more reliable than others.

    That is where the question of journalism and journalists comes in. The internet makes it possible for journalists to acquire information and pictures almost in real time. They learn of a story as it is happening just as news consumers do. Their charge is to know enough to be able to pursue and filter the information correctly. The Sanjay Guptas, Cristiane Amanpours, Brian Williams, Anderson Coopers, David Gregoreys, Gwen Ifells, Ann Curreys, Barbara Starrs, Peter Bergens, Fareed Zakarias, etc are standouts in the field of journalism in my opinion. They are worthy successors to the greats (Woodwards, Murrows, Cronkites, Thomases, etc) of the last century and they are far more numerous.

    In my opinion, on balance, the profession of information creation (from incoming data) and distribution is well served by the internet even with the misinformation that is created and propogated by malcontents, pundits, and uncritical individuals. If journalists needs more or different support to foster and assist them in their roles as professional news specialists, lets find and/or create sources and methods to provide it. Quality is more dependent on intelligence and professionalism than it is on the medium of distribution. The Internet might even be useful in that undertaking too.

  • It's money: if journalism is suffering, it's because the great newspapers can't afford to continue sending correspondents out to get the material that it needed if there is even going to be any news. So, either the newspapers need to be subsidized by the public(as npr and pbs), or they must charge everyone who wants to get news online. The best option as far as I can tell, is for the inline newspapers to require a paid subscription in order to survive.

  • Though politically and socially a "liberal," I tend to view technological chand with a touch of jaundice. That tendency, plus remembering the strong influence early print, television and radio news had upon the US--and the world--might leave me with a subtle bias. Even in light of that, I can't help but think that the Internet has done more to hurt our ability as a people to learn about events and ourselves than to help us do so.

  • Finally we can see/learn of the other side of stories.

  • I agree that the Internet has hurt print journalism financially- without a doubt. I don't think there's anyone who can deny that. As someone going into the print(?) market very soon, I see firsthand the problems both the economy and the Internet have caused print media. But, I agree with the article and this post that the Internet has helped journalism as a whole- maybe not print, but the industry of journalism. Why? Well I guess as a journalist myself, I'd be stating the obvious (at least obvious to other journalists), that the Internet makes news even more widely accessible to people, especially the younger generations. Whether they take advantage of that is another discussion. However, I'm writing a paper about the Internet (blogs specifically), and I've been interviewing print professionals, who say that blogs and other "citizen" online journalism outlets threaten the credibility of professional news outlets. I could go on and on about this, but in a nutshell, the Internet poses problems of credibility to journalism if any Joe Schmo can write "news" or "analyze" news. So the Internet is a blessing and a curse in my mind- and it's something I'm going to have to learn to deal with... now.

-Jeff

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posted February 2, 2010

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