November 27, 2009

THE COMING GOVERNMENT MONOPOLY ON NEWS:

Journalism's slow, sad death (Michael Gerson, November 27, 2009, Washington Post)

The democratization of the media -- really its fragmentation -- has encouraged ideological polarization. Princeton University professor Paul Starr traced this process recently in the Columbia Journalism Review. After the captive audience for network news was released by cable, many Americans did not turn to other sources of news. They turned to entertainment. The viewers who remained were more political and more partisan. "As Walter Cronkite prospered in the old environment," says Starr, "Bill O'Reilly and Keith Olbermann thrive in the new one. As the diminished public for journalism becomes more partisan, journalism itself is likely to shift further in that direction."

Cable and the Internet now allow Americans, if they choose, to get their information entirely from sources that agree with them -- sources that reinforce and exaggerate their political predispositions.

And the whole system is based on a kind of intellectual theft. Internet aggregators (who link to news they don't produce) and bloggers would have little to collect or comment upon without the costly enterprise of newsgathering and investigative reporting. The old-media dinosaurs remain the basis for the entire media food chain. But newspapers are expected to provide their content free on the Internet. A recent poll found that 80 percent of Americans refuse to pay for Internet content. There is no economic model that will allow newspapers to keep producing content they don't charge for, while Internet sites repackage and sell content they don't pay to produce.


It's pretty easy to imagine a day when all newsgathering will be done by public entities--NPR, PBS, BBC, etc. The Founders would be appalled.

Posted by Orrin Judd at November 27, 2009 8:05 AM
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