14 Aug 2009

Why We Need A Public Newspaper

By Jeff Sparrow
As Fairfax and News Ltd announce they will soon charge for online content, Jeff Sparrow argues the case for a publicly funded newspaper
With the old newspaper empires entering protracted crises, it's time to revive a policy that the federal side of the Labor Party once advocated for decades. That is, we need an ABC newspaper.

It's true that the internet poses new challenges to the media, but they are not entirely without precedent. When radio came to Australia, that technology seemed as magical as the web does now, a wondrous and instantaneous format capable of transforming life in a big country with a small population. Yet it quickly became apparent that there was no obvious business model under which private operators would use radio to its full potential. Who would broadcast to the bush, for instance? Who would establish a serious newsroom, rather than simply producing light entertainment? From very early on, it was apparent that the provision of high-quality broadcasts reaching country and city alike required public funding.

Today, that's scarcely controversial. Nine out of 10 Australians think the ABC provides a valuable service. It's as close as you will ever get to a consensus: the airwaves would be impoverished without public broadcasts.

Television is the same. Yes, there are private TV stations. But ABC TV enjoys broad support because everyone knows a wide range of socially necessary content — news, current affairs, educational programming, etc — would simply never be broadcast by the commercial channels. It's more than a matter of broadening the available viewing options. The political system depends upon the ABC fulfilling its charter. How effectively could our system function if we had to rely on Today Tonight and A Current Affair to hold politicians to account?

We're now at a juncture with print journalism. Newspapers traditionally perform an important social function, and one for which there remains no obvious alternative. Even the most serious TV and radio broadcasts cannot cover complex stories with the same depth as the written word. And while the blogging revolution has immensely enriched the analysis of the news, the great majority of online sites specialise in commentary, implicitly relying on reports produced elsewhere. For the most part, that elsewhere is a newspaper, an institution that not only publishes information but that has the resources to uncover it. To take the most obvious example, investigative journalism — time consuming, expensive and sometimes dangerous — happens either in newspapers or not at all.

Increasingly, it's not at all.

The media empires have responded to plummeting circulation and the migration of classified advertising online by slashing expenses. But since the cuts threaten the things newspapers do best, that strategy amounts to curing a disease by killing the patient. The war in Afghanistan remains scandalously underreported, but, maintaining a correspondent in a conflict zone is tremendously expensive and the kind of grim news that comes from a war will scarcely boost sales anyway. Much easier to pull a report about Afghanistan from the newswire and fill your pages with celebrity gossip.

You can see the process at work on the websites of all the Australian papers. The internet, we're told, represents the future of the press. If that's true, we're in for a grim time, since even the broadsheets are desperately trawling for clicks by foregrounding sex scandals and paparazzi photos.

Fairfax and News Ltd argue that charging for online content will allow them to sustain quality journalism. Will their plans to "monetise" news online succeed? Well, perhaps, but — as the music industry discovered a decade ago — firewalling information is not as easy as it sounds.

But the more important question is what success would actually mean. The web, as its name suggests, is a network. Linkages are not an optional extra — the connections on which the system relies make each site more than an illuminated version of a printed page. That's why blogging has become so important. Major news stories are now analysed and debated more thoroughly than at any time in human history, at least in part because information can move so freely from site to site. If each newspaper successfully walls off its content, we'll be left with a system in which the unique capabilities of the internet have been deliberately sidelined — almost as if, back in the 30s, we'd embraced a radio network that you could only access by wire, simply because that was the only way someone could turn a profit.

Our grandparents saw the need for a public intervention to realise the potential of new technology. Why can't we do the same? It's not as if a publicly funded newspaper would need a huge investment. The infrastructure already exists. The ABC websites are among the most popular in the country. They already provide news and analysis. By boosting their staff (hiring some of the many journalists currently being made redundant) and extending their charter, they could be restructured as the arms of a fully fledged online newspaper.

An ABC newspaper would be primarily responsible for the provision of high-quality print journalism. It would employ sufficient reporters to cover the news in a way that no-one else can. But it would also be responsible for picking up other socially useful functions of newspapers as the old media companies gradually discard them. For instance, all across the United States, papers have been cutting back on their book reviews. Today, only the New York Times and the San Francisco Chronicle maintain a stand-alone review section, and you can see the same shrinkage beginning to happen here.

The absence of an authoritative source of popular reviews will have a devastating effect on literary culture. Perhaps we don't think that matters, but if we can agree that it does, then supplying it is an obvious function that a publicly funded paper could perform.

Without the commercial pressures that weigh on Fairfax and News Ltd, an ABC paper could experiment with web technology, seeking ways not to restrict information but to disseminate it more effectively. The digital revolution encourages integration of content, and so a publicly funded online newspaper could combine print journalism with audio and visual feeds in new and innovative ways.

But wouldn't a government-funded publication turn into Pravda or something equally sinister? Well, there's no reason to think that an ABC paper would be any different from TV and radio — and most Australians have far more confidence in the editorial independence of the ABC broadcasts than they do in its commercial rivals. According to Newspoll, between 85 and 93 per cent of the audience see the main ABC news and current affairs programs as fair and balanced. Those kinds of figures suggest that, rather than fearing a publicly funded paper, Australians, particularly in rural areas, would embrace it wholeheartedly.

We face today a strange situation in which a technology that can spread like never before threatens to impoverish, rather than enrich, our media landscape. Yet we've encountered this paradox before, and we know that public ownership works.

An ABC newspaper is neither a new proposal, nor a particularly radical one. But it's an idea whose time has come.

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rd001
Posted Friday, August 14, 2009 - 16:10

I vehemently oppose this idea and I welcome developments in the destruction of big banner private media and the taxpayer sheltered 4th estate radical thugs. Anglo-western news media is a broken institution across the board. It needs to die and to be reborn based on providing sufficient value to meet public expectations so that they will part with the cash or provide advertising to meet real commercial enterprise needs (rather than govt run consumption ticket clipping Ponzi schemes as ridden by the current crony led real estate and finance industries) to fund them.

Before recommending the ABC for print journalism have you ever asked for the ABC ratings curve from inception until today? How about tracking the available opinion polling on journalists in terms of their meeting commuinity expectations?

Private newspapers have also surrendered increasingly to big government with even the smaller independents eaten. P plate driver speeding at 120km/h cries the SMH banner every second day! Real estate value spruiking editorial filling classifieds and stamp duty/land tax coffers at the same time.

And the worst of the media is the SBS and ABC hybrids where private partisan political institutions like the Lowy institute and banking/investment institutions are defining public policy. PBS and its charter in the US is way out in front of Australia in terms of tempering interest groups. here we have a few dimes of private money getting bucket loads of public funding and providing a propaganda channel for political benefactors and a higher paid career for public servants that toe the line. Here we have either direct advertising or content channeling like in SBS and in the ABC's case just taking cheap content and even production and allowing private tags and banners and self interested cash generating opinions to hit the screens as introduced by lazy tax payer funded reporters.

GeoffDavies
Posted Friday, August 14, 2009 - 16:23

Hooray, hooray, somebody noticed there are options for our media. Yes, a public newspaper would be an excellent improvement. It doesn't have to be run by the ABC of course, though there would be "savings" if it were.

Of course the ABC needs to be properly funded again, so it can regain its quality, its ratings and its balance (after decades of neoliberal browbeating). The appointment of its board needs to be arms-length from the Government. The current Howard-stacked board needs to be sacked. The creeping commercialisation needs to be stopped and reversed.

A public newspaper is not the last word here though. All of our media could/should be owned by the communities they "serve", so they actually serve them, rather than some foreign moneybags, or the paranoids in government.

djackmanson
Posted Friday, August 14, 2009 - 16:58

I think the idea of a public newspaper is a very bad idea. The author says

"It's true that the internet poses new challenges to the media, but they are not entirely without precedent. When radio came to Australia, that technology seemed as magical as the web does now, a wondrous and instantaneous format capable of transforming life in a big country with a small population."

but misses the point that at that time radio was a *new* medium, whereas today newspapers are dying.

The other poor argument in the article is:

"And while the blogging revolution has immensely enriched the analysis of the news, the great majority of online sites specialise in commentary, implicitly relying on reports produced elsewhere. For the most part, that elsewhere is a newspaper, an institution that not only publishes information but that has the resources to uncover it. To take the most obvious example, investigative journalism — time consuming, expensive and sometimes dangerous — happens either in newspapers or not at all."

We need investigative journalism - and people need to realise that it won't happen for free. But the fact that it appears *right now* in newspapers is irrelevant. Investigative journalism could survive just as well on the Internet as it could in a newspaper. On the Internet, it's just the newsroom and the journalists who need to be paid for. In print, the operation also has to pay for printing, and distribution - newspapers are heavy, awkard things, difficult and expensive to move around in bulk.

While I wouldn't want to do without the ABC right now, I don't feel especially confident that it's the only organisation we should rely on for serious, in-depth journalism. The ABC can be just as fearful and bureaucratic as any other organisation that gets its funding from politicians, and at times it can be appallingly shallow.

Despite all the weaknesses I see in this article, at least it helps to provoke discussion about how proper, in-depth journalism (that is, not just opinion) might be paid for in an age where newspapers are dying. I wonder if 10 000 Australians could be found willing to pay $20 a month to support an online investigative journalistic website. And if so, would $200 000 a month be enough to run a newsroom like that?

http://bit.ly/djackmanson

David_H
Posted Friday, August 14, 2009 - 17:25

The newspapers deserve their fates. The so-called service they provide democracy is greatly overrated especially by the media and giving the ABC more power to dictate and dominate debate seems counter intuitive to any notion of an inquiring media.

What does that ABC actually do with it public money? How much of it do they directly and indirectly turn over to commercial interests and who would derive financial advantage from any extra public money funneled into the ABC?

Using public funds to seed community driven models seems like a better idea instead of concentrating the information role into the hands of the ABC. For those with short memories, it wasn't that long ago that the ABC axed the Religion Report, Media Report, Sports Factor, The Ark, Perspective and In Conversation. Its commitment to alternative points of view is thread bare at best and its recent obsession with "editorial balance" doesn't engender much confidence either.

Happy_Slacker
Posted Friday, August 14, 2009 - 18:45

Congratulations, Jeff Sparrow, for neatly invoking the basics of what remains of a left-right conflict in Australia, by way of the reflexive responses.

It's worth noting that the newspapers' decline in advertising is worse and faster than the decline in readership. Newspapers in total were read by 12 million Australians weekly, according to the readership data released in February; so the widespread Internet perception that newspapers are somehow already dead is at odds with reality.

It's also worth remarking that many publishers are in desperate straits not because the newspapers aren't operationally viable, but because they have assumed excessive debt (as did many fools in the boom times). So there's another question to ask: would "newspapers" survive the death of monolithic and monopolistic publishing houses?

Certainly investigative journalism has an important role to play, and the ABC has shown itself capable of doing so (for instance, through the number of royal commissions sparked by Four Corners).

However, the argument that the ABC should become a newspaper publisher needs to be better demonstrated from the available facts.

Thanks, however, for a thoughtful and arresting article.

Jacqueline Reidpath
Posted Friday, August 14, 2009 - 23:16

Given that there is an influx of newspapers out there already I fail to see how making a newspaper 'public' would improve it's chances at readership.

I never read newspapers any more, I get all my news online, radio or television. I have to say that online it is more immediate and I prefer it that way. I have very little patience any more for sitting down and wading through the ads to find the news.

Basically it seems to me that most major newspapers have the same news but it is edited differently. I used to read the Sunday paper religiously every week but now it is so full of ads and inserts that I can't be bothered any more.

Talking about 'public' newspapers, what about the community newspapers? Most people just throw them straight in the trash anyway (I do mostly, unless there is a headline that catches my eye...which is very rare).

I think hard copy newspapers are dying out and the trend is going to be online journalism. The revenue undoubtedly will come from subscriptions and advertising but it will be interesting to see what develops down the track.

Thought provoking article, thank you.

IBerlin
Posted Saturday, August 15, 2009 - 00:10

It's fanciful nonsense to think that government funded newspapers could be trusted and that the public should be forced to pay for opinions they disagree with. Take a look around at the countries who currently run government funded newspapers. Iran. Egypt. Jordan. North Korea. Etc . . .

I go along with Thomas Jefferson's admonition "that to compel a man to furnish contributions of money for the propagation of opinions which he disbelieves is sinful and tyrannical."

We don't need newspapers. We need good journalism.

rd001
Posted Saturday, August 15, 2009 - 11:01

IBerlin, isn't it strange that Jefferson by Hollywood as the guru of the red neck patriot? Perhaps it was these thoughts combined with his observations of the debilitating effects of the rent of bankers that has inspired this derisory narrative that lampoons protestant conservative middle America. The perfect cultural antedote can be found in the underlying strength portrayed in Marylin Robinson's work. It is such that should wake those in the night that fear the conservative resurgence.

Syd Walker
Posted Saturday, August 15, 2009 - 11:12

Over the last decade, the ABC (and SBS, for that matter) has almost completely lost my trust as a purveyor of accurate information about what's important.

I'm now aware how much important information is left out of the ABC's news, current affairs and historical coverage - and how carefully opinions are selected and shepherded so they fall within a range deemed acceptable.

As things stand, I would not trust the ABC to have greater powers and a broader role. Unless it changes fast and opens up to a wider range of perspectives, I actually support taking the news and current affairs function away from that organization, on the basis of breach of trust.

The public reasonably expects honest coverage of the most important issues of our times from public broadcasters. If public broadcasters don't deliver that, they should be de-funded.

One example: the ABC has not run a single serious interview with <a href="http://sydwalker.info/blog/2009/07/16/fearful-thinking/">Professor David Ray Griffin</a> about 9-11. <a href="http://www.abc.net.au/worldtoday/content/2006/s1737980.htm">This 2006 news item</a> by Rafael Epstein is the closest I can find via the ABC website. Here's how Epstein's segment on Professor Griffin began:

<em>RAFAEL EPSTEIN: David Griffin is used to having his ideas dismissed by most in the media.

(to David Griffin) "Most people think that you are mad and that the people who are listening are mad"...</em>

That's about as balanced and fair an introduction as you might get on Fox News on a bad day. Would Mr Epstein, perchance, have an agenda?

Some of the disillusionment and anger at the ABC over this type of egregious bias is mentioned in the discussion following <a href="http://www.abc.net.au/unleashed/stories/s2589047.htm">this recent article</a> on the ABC website.

The general public is too busy to study news 24x7. We rely on publicly-funded institutions such as the ABC to do this on behalf of the public as a whole - and relay back to us an intelligent, diverse, honest and pertinent array of information. No significant, well-argued views should be excluded from debate. A public broadcaster is a microcosm of the entire community and should reflect its true diversity.

The public will not take it kindly when it becomes ever-more apparent that the institution we've all been paying to provide us with the most crucial facts about our world has, in reality, been covering for mass murderers - and denying a legion of honest whistle-blowers the chance to bring this rather obvious fact to light.

Similar remarks could be made in relation to the dramatic events at Port Arthur in 1996: in that case there's been no Coronial Inquiry, no Inquest, no testing of the evidence against the sole accused at Trial, no subsequent Public Inquiry.... and no interest whatsoever in the many anomalies of the case by <em>Your</em> ABC, while Phillip Adams and his ilk get seemingly endless airtime to lampoon real skeptics without ever allowing them right of reply.

So... if not the ABC... what may be the way forward for expanding quality journalism in this country?

I think David_H is onto something: "Using public funds to seed community driven models seems like a better idea instead of concentrating the information role into the hands of the ABC. "

The idea needs development, but I think it may be the best general approach. If a society is wealthy enough, it can afford to examine itself and foster informed debate. In fact, it can't afford not to. Commercial forces alone may not foster quality and integrity - in this as in other sectors of the economy. So the public may well have to find new way of paying reasonable (not super-star) rates for quality and integrity in journalism.

Overall, I think we need more, not less, diversity of media - and more decentralization of power and control.

It seems to me the biggest media scandal in contemporary Australia is Murdoch's virtual monopoly of print media throughout vast areas of the country. A democracy that takes itself seriously would break this up ASAP like the Bell Corporation of yore into several less domineering separate separate enterprises.

I wonder which 'serious' political party might care to put that high on the agenda?

tigerquoll
Posted Saturday, August 15, 2009 - 19:14

Citizen journalism rules ok! Lookout Fairfax/Murdock/ABC!

The internet allows us to tune to http://english.aljazeera.net/
Thinking public distrust of mainstream media is because it is aligned with mainsteam politics.

The emergence of right wing alternative thinking is being fueled by obvious bias disrespectful of community.

Dr Dog
Posted Monday, August 17, 2009 - 10:59

I wouldn't hold my breath for that one Syd. Murdoch still has most politicians vital's in a jar.

Newspapers may be dying but I still see a lot of folk walking around with them under their arm. I guess they might be useful in scaring off magpies in the coming spring.

But I don't think the future lies in national newsprint, as much as I would like to think it could work. We aren't committed enough to an advert free, national broadcaster as it is.

Citizen journalism has a long way to go before it has the same trust the broadsheets used to enjoy. There may be some value, though, in the growing need to find out things for one's self. Perhaps the ABC should be producing information and training for people to get their own information and providing a forum for dissemination of citizen's efforts.

Remy
Posted Monday, August 17, 2009 - 13:25

@djackmanson

'but misses the point that at that time radio was a *new* medium, whereas today newspapers are dying.'

I don't really get your point. But here's an interesting article about newspaper-radio relations anyway:

http://www.slate.com/id/2223216/

'We need investigative journalism - and people need to realise that it won’t happen for free. But the fact that it appears *right now* in newspapers is irrelevant. Investigative journalism could survive just as well on the Internet as it could in a newspaper.'

Investigative journalism requires lots of money. Online journalism does not make money. I really find it hard to see the average punter pay '$20 a month to support online investigative journalism'. It's true that the ABC could provide investigative journalism online without a print form though.

'I don’t feel especially confident that it’s the only organisation we should rely on for serious, in-depth journalism.'

Fairfax has piles of debt, more than they admit. News Limited can't be trusted. Where else are we going to get good journalism? Crikey?

An ABC newspaper might set higher standards for the rest to follow. Or not.

@Jacqueline Reidpath

"Given that there is an influx of newspapers out there already I fail to see how making a newspaper ‘public’ would improve it’s chances at readership."

The goal of a public newspaper isn't to improve newspaper circulation, but to improve the quality of news available.

And there isn't an 'influx of newspapers out there'. There are only two major brands,—or one if you live in Brisbane.

"I never read newspapers any more, I get all my news online, radio or television. I have to say that online it is more immediate and I prefer it that way. I have very little patience any more for sitting down and wading through the ads to find the news."

Not everyone is like this. Newspaper circulation isn't dying too fast, newspaper advertising is, especially classifieds which were the main money makers for the quality broadsheets owned by Fairfax.

Personally I enjoy reading newspapers, and I'm young, I've grown up with the internet. And I'm not trying to be contrarian on purpose.

'Talking about ‘public’ newspapers, what about the community newspapers? Most people just throw them straight in the trash anyway (I do mostly, unless there is a headline that catches my eye…which is very rare).'

Most community newspapers aren't public owned.

@IBerlin

'It’s fanciful nonsense to think that government funded newspapers could be trusted and that the public should be forced to pay for opinions they disagree with. Take a look around at the countries who currently run government funded newspapers. Iran. Egypt. Jordan. North Korea. Etc …'

:s

@rd001

'IBerlin, isn’t it strange that Jefferson by Hollywood as the guru of the red neck patriot?'

And Christopher Hitchens...

@Syd Walker

'One example: the ABC has not run a single serious interview with Professor David Ray Griffin about 9-11.'

Lol. Truthers! Keep fighting the good fight!

@tigerquoll

'The internet allows us to tune to http://english.aljazeera.net/'

Al Jazeera is owned by the Emir of Qatar, thus is worse than public owned media.

Key points:

1/ People still like to read quality printed news

2/ Private owned newspapers are dying, sacking journalists and lowering quality

3/ Online news currently does not make much money

4/ It doesn't look like they will in the future, despite Murdoch's attempts

5/ ABC can still provide quality investigative journalism online without print

6/ But that would suck since I like reading things on paper

7/ ABC isn't biased, you doped up looney fringe bigots

Syd Walker
Posted Monday, August 17, 2009 - 16:18

@ Remy

Remy wrote:

<em>@Syd Walker

‘One example: the ABC has not run a single serious interview with Professor David Ray Griffin about 9-11.’

Lol. Truthers! Keep fighting the good fight!</em>

I'll take that as encouragement. The truth is indeed worth pursuing.

Here's a link to a recent interview with Professor Griffin the ABC won't be playing anytime soon, not unless Change we Can Believe In comes to the ABC.

In the interview, Griffin discusses the subject of his latest book - evidence surrounding Bin Laden's alleged continuing presence on this earth and the likelihood that a succession of video tapes allegedly by issued by Bin Laden were faked.

Flushing out Mr Bin Laden and his associates was, of course, the original stated reason for invading Afghanistan back in late 2001.

Faked Bin Laden videos go back to 2001. One notorious example ran a few days before the 2004 US Presidential election and was widely promoted at the time. It gave quite a significant boost to Bush's flagging campaign at the time.

I don't ask that the ABC adopts this analysis of Griffin's as official policy.

I do ask that it gives serious coverage to credible critics of the official version of 9-11 (and other anomalous recent events).

In this case, the ABC's failure to report a quite widespread view that the Bin Laden video tapes are fakes has amounted to biased, selective and effectively deceptive reporting, over a period of several years.

The ABC is not paid taxpayer funds to serve as a gatekeeper.

If the ABC's remaining friends want it to have a yet wider role, they should respond more seriously to well-founded criticisms that the ABC fails to discharge its current duties with integrity.

This user is a New Matilda supporter. singha99
Posted Monday, August 17, 2009 - 18:17

Well, here in Adelaide the ABC gives a fair coverage of local news, and much too much attention to trivia such as sport. SBS 9:30 pm news is strong on international news, but not terribly comprehensive otherwise (6:30 pm is too early for me to watch TV news).

The local newspaper is rubbish, so we buy "The Australian" daily in spite of it's frequent lack of balance.

But I have half a dozen foreign papers which I look at on the net - some daily, some less frequently.

As long as overseas newspapers, many of which have a far better coverage of international news, and far more informed commentators, are available free, who is going to subscribe to Murdoch and Fairfax local offerings?

No, I don't think that we should be heading for any type of Government supported newspaper in the 21 st century, but i do advocate retaining the ABC and SBS.

Glen

timhtrain
Posted Monday, August 17, 2009 - 18:52

A public ABC-style newspaper would be pretty disastrous.

The best case scenario would be that it would operate pretty much like the ABC does now - that is, with governments perpetually trying to stack boards, endless complaints in the commentariat about bias this way or that way. It would tend to exacerbate the tensions that the ABC currently creates, because, hey, it's public money - my money, your money, the money earned and taken away from millions of taxpayers across the country. Of course they're going to be interested in how their money is spent, and of course they're going to be furious if it is spent in a way that they do not agree with. But hey, maybe some people can live with that.

Worst case scenario, of course, is that it would turn into another Pravda, a sheet to forward the ideology of the government of the day, or a mouthpiece for the powerful. Sure, it's not inevitable. But it's very possible.

At any rate, the existence of another Australia-wide public news source would have an increasingly deleterious effect on public debate. With access, via the ABC board and the Department of Communications, to two national news sources, the tempation of governments to make the news more favourable to themselves would increase. Private news owners would sometimes quit markets altogether, because they wouldn't be able to effectively compete with the government. And over time, the duopoly of ABC radio and ABC newspapers in many places would be used to drown out the voices of those with alternate points of view.

An ABC newspaper would end up just being a voice of those in power. The powerful would become more powerful.

And in case there are a few die-hard socialists still supporting the proposal just because public ownership is, in some abstract sense, 'good', consider this:

The evil free-marketing Liberals get back into power.

The evil free-marketing Liberals argue that ABC television, radio, and newspaper have an overwhelming leftist bias.

The evil free-marketing Liberals proceed to stack the boards of ABC television, radio, and newspapers and do everything they can with every financial and legislative means at hand to make ABC television, radio, and newspapers favourable to themselves.

Gosh. I wonder if I can see a problem with that... ???

TimT

Dr Dog
Posted Tuesday, August 18, 2009 - 08:40

I hadn't realised that folk from Adelaide are forced by circumstance to buy The Australian. On that basis I demand a nationally owned paper as it a fundamental human right not to have to read the Oz.

tigerquoll
Posted Wednesday, August 19, 2009 - 22:56

When I read the daily (source withheld to maintain objectivity as learned from above), I scan the front page, check the second page for hints, then straigh to the Opinion and Letters. I probably have given away my source now.

Message: Once informed of the issues, I am only interested in the analysis and the community feedback. Am I unique or does such a section exist to indeed sustain a newspaper?

Curious extant readership copes with, indeed seeks out daily analysis of an issue. But commercial media is shallow in analysis. Opportunities exist for multi-level analysis online. One day I may only want level 2, others live the Victirian Bushfires, I may want level 7 - i.e. investigative journalism/academic research/root cause analysis (whatever), but not more re-runs of photos of burnt car wrecks.

A 'coalition of the truthful' of certified INDEPENDENT onliners (like new matilda) would scare the wits out of commercial rags, especially Fairfax pending online counter measure 'National Times'.

Perhaps we will have to start paying for online analysis, even if a token $40 like The Monthly.

Anonymous (not verified)
Posted Friday, September 11, 2009 - 21:01

I think one of the most important things about newspapers is that they broaden our knowledge in a way that the web cannot. The internet only gives us the information we have searched for, and because of the way online news content is displayed, we only see a narrow selection of articles. Time constraints mean people only look at the articles that interest them. As a result knowledge gets narrower and narrower, perhaps political views become more and more polarised and entrenched.

The format of a newspaper, especially a broadsheet, encourages reading from start to finish and, in particular, the reading of articles that we might not otherwise look at. I love nytimes.com, and it does a better job than most at setting out a comprehensive home page, but there are limits to what a computer screen can display. Whenever in the States, I relish in buying the print edition of The New York Times, because it gives me the opportunity to have a broad daily news diet, published with professional editorial judgment that is not limited to my own prejudices in what information I might seek out. Thoroughly more satisfying than reading online content, and I would say better for the education of society than online news. I think we need to be more aware of our own prejudices in reading online news and acknowledge that it simply can't give us what a print newspaper can provide, even if they offer a daily headlines email service.

Whether the ABC should run a newspaper is another question, but I would say that an online newspaper would not be enough. A print edition is a must.