Thursday, 25 September 2008

Is news too important to be left to the market?

I don't get involved in the news side of our operations very much other than to try and seduce journalists into spending time interacting with their audience but I do, of course, see the doom and gloom every day about the future of newspapers in particular and especially in the US.

The ding-dong going on at Roy Greenslade's blog over the alleged declining news values of the Telegraph (among others) is interesting. As his mole describes it:

"To paraphrase, comment is cheap but facts are expensive. And I don't trust many media organisations to make the investment required to uncover new facts, which I believe should be the currency of journalism, when there is so much cheaper content available to them."

Among the accusations flying around is the notion that the Telegraph has a policy of recycling news from other papers. I have mixed feelings about this as a criticism (after all, it works quite well in the blogosphere). From the point of view of a Telegraph journalist it must be pretty depressing, but from a Telegraph reader's point of view it's probably neither here nor there - but on balance it's probably better to hear about something interesting that was reported in the Daily Mail (probably a bad example) the day before than not to hear about it at all.

Of course, even what we take to be quality journalism isn't always as good as it should be but as the economic pressures and online migration and the rise of free newspapers take their toll, you do wonder where it's all going to end.

For all its faults, thank goodness for the BBC. Is the news too important to be left to the free market? Or does the market just need to re-think - perhaps reinventing wire services and developing more co-operation between competitors (as local papers have done in the US).

But when I think about all this to much I get depressed. I refuse to accept the free papers in London (Metro, London Lite and whatever the other one is called; none of them noted for their incisive journalism) for what I grandly like to think of as ethical issues mostly do do with the waste. But the vast majority of the travelling public take them and at the end of the day the public gets what the public wants and the market delivers it. If they (in viable numbers) don't really want news, then what's the future for news?

Update: forgot to mention that this happened to day too.

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