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What if we had easy access and stinking content?

24 Apr

What’s the use of seamless web access if all you get is stale, flawed, biased, puerile content?

Meaning, what would happen if all the investigative reporters turned away from the news business, and all the stories that ever got published by stripped-down newspapers were opinion pieces and press releases thinly disguised as news?

These are my nightmare scenarios when I pick up my Arizona Republic, and grab a copy of The Wall Street Journal. The impact of this hit me when I read that one of the Pulitzer prize winners was a local newspaper here, the East Valley Tribune –a paper that is on life support, having turned to being a free paper, and published just a few times a week.

How can newspapers survive? Could they follow the National Public Radio model (by the way, NPR has cancelled its newspaper subscriptions!)  or turn to some other form of revenue to pay journalists? Mitch Joel has summarised some of the scary things happening in the news business.

On the same day he wrote about this, I listened to an NPR show (Talk of the Nation) talking about just this. I was somewhat optimistic to hear a few alternative business models. One of which was The Voice Of  San Diego that operates as a non-profit. Think about that. A non-profit newspaper. It says it is “the only professionally staffed, nonprofit online news site in the state focused on local news and issues” that is funded through “the support of individuals, foundations and businesses which, like you, recognize the importance of local news from an independent perspective.”

Sometimes, when I login to Yahoo, I see its front page with news such as “Paula gets choked up. Kara screws up on ‘Idol” and one about two guys in Philly who got a text messaging bill for $26,000. I know they are merely aggregating content, often content that appeals to everyone in general, and no-one in particular. At such times I want to cancel my cable and use that money to subsidize a journalist or one of the new media startups like these that can deliver some real news.

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