Over on “the hill” a blog news site comes news that there is a newspaper tax bailout bill being seriously proposed in Washington. Newspapers do not need a bailout bill; they need to restructure to meet the needs of the new way of doing things.
Much like buggy whips, assembly before the assembly line, the introduction of the steel belted radial tire, we have allowed companies to fail. This sudden and disturbing interest in bailing out companies so that they can continue on with their old business models that do not fit where technology and society is going is going to fry innovation in its tracks. Sorry, while I like the New York Times and the Seattle Times, it was not a big loss to me to lose the Seattle PI, the Rocky Mountain News or other newspapers that have shutdown or gone out of business.
This is not an assault on Journalists, this is not an assault on the free press, we need a reasoned non yellow journalism (AKA Fox News) way of getting the news. What is happening is that we are getting the news from people we trust, not necessarily the NY Times. We are following what our friends follow, we are reading blogs, we are reading the BBC, and we are reading a whole host of online content. While the ads on the internet and on those content sites might not be generating mega bucks in profits, they are reporting the news. If anything shows that the current way news is developed, promulgated, and shared is broken, look at what happened during the Green Revolution in Iran. Most people got their news from Twitter. If you want breaking news you will go to twitter, not to CNN and not to Fox, ABC, CBS, or NBC.
If you want to find news information you will go right to AP (even if you disagree with their policies) because the AP has a web site. Or you will go to Yahoo news, Google News, or MSNBC. People go to the middle man, not necessarily to the core web sites that create that content. Bloggers have had to deal with this for years; it is time for newspapers to learn the same.
Sen. Ben Cardin (D-Md.) has introduced S. 673, the so-called “Newspaper Revitalization Act,” that would give outlets tax deals if they were to restructure as 501(c)(3) corporations. That bill has so far attracted one cosponsor, Cardin’s Maryland colleague Sen. Barbara Mikulski (D). White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs had played down the possibility of government assistance for news organizations, which have been hit by an economic downturn and dwindling ad revenue. Source: The Hill
While later on in the article they do talk about the core ideas behind why this needs to happen. One of those ideas is that blogs are unreliable. When people are reading blogs like 538, or other authoritative blogs then the argument does not hold true. Blogs are not the boogey man to scare small children with, there are blogs that go back and fact check everything like Ars Techica. We do have blogs that spin the news to suit them, but this is no different than what we see in media today, information as entertainment is nothing new. The problem is that with all the choices we have to divert our attention, newspapers are but a small section of where we will spend our money on entertainment.
News is hardly news anymore, and buggy whips are a dying business. We didn’t prop up the buggy whip industry, and news is all over the internet. Some of the sponsored big box news is absolute tripe, with a large amount of demagoguery on both sides of the political fence. No one complains when average people get sucked into something that is not fact checked when it comes from big box news. The same holds true for blogs and other social media, if you look at what makes it to the top of social media and blogs; it is all from great sources with trustworthy people, at least as trustworthy as anyone else who purports to be a reporter. Newspapers do not need a tax bail out; they need to learn to work in the new environment.
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(Cross-posted @ TechWag)