Apathy and the printed word

2 04 2009

With the ever increasing struggle that is being faced by the print media industry, it has become necessary to examine the journalistic model that traditional media was founded upon.

Part of the solution for the struggling industry may be found within the ranks of the print journalist’s online counterpart: the blogger.

Blogs are often written in an informal, conversational tone that some readers find more engaging than other traditional news sources. Blogging has turned news into a conversation; it doesn’t end when the newspaper hits newsstands. “The story doesn’t end when it’s published, but rather just gets started as the public begins to do its part — discussing the story, adding to it, and correcting it,” said Steve Outing in his online article, “What journalists can learn from bloggers.”

The Internet has sped up the publishing cycle, making news immediate. This is something that bloggers have taken full advantage of. If you want the very latest in what is going on around the globe, don’t wait for tomorrow’s newspaper to be dropped on your doorstep — look online. The Web can be updated within seconds — something that isn’t possible with print media. A Web site can have a new story up faster than the newspaper delivery van can make it to the end of your street. According to David Meerman Scott, this shift to online has changed the way in which the news is dealt with.

“With Web-based access to information, consumers have real choices for how they learn about the world around them — alternatives to the filter of mainstream media,” he said.

Author David Weinberger takes the view that anyone and everyone should be able to participate and contribute to the general knowledge base; the more information that is out there, the better. Let readers decide for themselves what information is important and what isn’t.

Outing supports this argument by stating that, “publishing unpolished thoughts (written by smart people) can be valuable — that in the lightning-fast Internet era, unrefined commentary and analysis has a place.” You don’t have to be a paid professional to have a valuable opinion.

I don’t think I can point to any one thing that traditional media can do that would be a sure fix for its current dilemma. By and large, audiences have become apathetic — through no faulty of traditional media.

The problem is not newspapers. The problem is the public.

People want to be entertained and that is something that audiences get by going online. However, that being said, if newspapers were to “dumb down” the news, they will not be doing the public any favors.

According to William Fisher, in “The Downside of 24/7 Journalism,” “This dumbing down of news presents us with, at best, incomplete information. And incomplete information leads us to bad decisions.”

I think — or at least hope — that when people once again start caring enough to pay attention, readership and circulation will once again improve.

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