Feb 3, 2008

How Should We Then Live, James? Jacob on the future of Journalism

Die Zukunft des Journalismus...

Werden gedruckte Zeitungen langsam verschwinden, und mit ihnen der sogenannte Qualitätsjournalismus? Werden sie von den Blogger-Heeren des Web 2.0 aufgesaugt oder vertrieben? Will im Jahr 2040 niemand mehr Zeitung auf Papier lesen?

What will the future of Journalism look like?
Will there be no more quality printed newspapers?

- I find it hard to imagine that bloggers (like me, perhaps?) are going to be the only future of journalist writing. Point #1.
As for myself, I no doubt cherish a quality article.
Even today, journalists for the most part are adapting to a new sort of media. It offers them a great chance, to say the least. For journalists who publish their blogs, podcasts, or videos on the internet can gain some individual profile and imprint their names into their readers memory.
That's what I am convinced of.
Take me for an example: I am trying to make use of my bit of spear time and read a variety of articles in different newspapers, blogs, and the like. Once you find something that is more than just worth your time, you can usually tag it with a RSS feed and transfer it to your favourite reader. There, you will receive all future posts on that XML-page (so it depends on whether you subscribe to "news" from a big site, e.g. New York Times, which would make some hundred articles per day, or you subscribe to a bloggers page, who normally wouldn't bother you with more than one or two articles a day.

I don't really see the problem posted in the article in "Süddeutsche Zeitung".
As I said before, I prefer quality articles to mere sentimental blog posts. However,

1.) there is a good number of professional journalists already writing blogs, and

2.) many of the non-professional bloggers are writing about specific topics that sometimes the media are not covering in any sufficient way, or - they are biased in their writing.

Some examples:

I am looking for information about democracy in China, human rights and so on, you know.
I would not go looking for it in the German media. Rather, I would go to open democracy or some other online forum, where there are intellectuals writing about things they know about. Take Li Datong and Lung Ying-tai for an example. Li is one of the most famed Chinese critical journalists, and he got to online blogging only because he was forced to, since he wasn't allowed the same critical attitude when writing for a newspaper in China.
But he has insight, and he is a professional.
If I were to look for information on the situation in Taiwan, I'd turn to blogging expatriats on the island. They might not be professionals, but they write what they care about, plus they more often than not have studied it. If one were only following the news home, one would gain very biased information on the topic, since most journalists are writing from Peking or care about Taiwan little if at all. From my own experience, German media unquestioningly broadcast Peking standpoints, Taiwan being renegade province, or KMT-points, and obviously part of it is not based on data. You can read more about it here.

"Quality" mass media is not always right, especially when they talk about happenings far from home.
Blogging, however, is a very basis-democratic form of organisation, where like-minded people are given a good opportunity to meet and exchange ideas. Thus, we can more easily build interest movements and exchange information. It is part of a development that Dan Tapscott calls "wikinomics", open sharing and developing through internetworks.
There is a point in just how verified the information is. On the internet, nothing can be taken for granted. However, it must be possible, to come as close to a verification as it can get. Surely, this will be so when most of the "hidden" information (that you cannot reach freely on the internet as of yet) is revealed and open to access for everyone. Then it depends on people and their willingness to blindly accept or spend more time looking for data.

I appreciate most intellectual newspapers publish their content online. Most of my information I still obtain from the websites of my favourite magazines. "Die Zeit", for instance, has a whole archive on its authors articles that you can read online, as well as publishing some authors weblogs on the homepage. This makes it easy for me to subscribe to my favourite authors' articles. In German, that would be called "vorbildlich".
I admitt, we'd have a huge problem if everyone were like me (although I am buying the printed newspaper, too!). If people stopped buying printed newspapers, then where should the publishing house's money come from? Especially since buying/selling articles online does not work well enough (as the New York Times had to experience).

Apart from online news and political questions, you can gather a lot of scientific knowledge through blogs on the internet. You do find enough information packed well enough for comprehensive understanding without going too much into detail for the lay person.

One crucial point in my opinion lies in the influence that weblogs already exert on their young audience, and this will only increase. They transport information, and thus have the power to shape consciousness. An informative and rhetorically virtuous can have quite an impact on its readers opinion.
This also means responsibility for those writing. We need to thoroughly question where the information we transport originates from.
What will be interesting to see is how blogs in China will shape consciousness of the country's young. When our generation grows into power, will there already be democratic change? If so, to a great deal this would be thanks to some brave minds continueing blogging on alternatives to the authoritarian regime.

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