Down with newspapers, up with viewspapers — and WeMedia

21Aug07

“Sooner rather than later, the newspaper you’re holding in your hands will be very different than it is today.” This is the opening of an intriguing piece published by the San Jose Mercury News a couple days ago. Quoting two recent reports on readership preferences about newspapers (one by Nielsen/NetRatings in Britain and the other one by Pew Research Center in the US), Tim Rutten argues that the US “Web crowd, younger and better-educated… [has an] unfavorable opinion of cable news networks…[are] dissatisfied with their country’s news media… [and] UK ‘quality’ online newspapers now have more American than British readers”. Fair enough. But while arguing that “Younger Americans want views, not just news, in print”, that is, more articulate viewpoints, commentary, and so on, he underlines “the current undifferentiated cacophony of substantial and frivolous opinion on the Internet”, something from which serious newspapers must distinguish themselves in order “to best serve their readers”. And they can do so not by becoming more and more “viewspapers”, as the piece title and opening seemed to suggest and those reports were reinforcing, but instead by simply going back to the comatose doctrine of objectivity, of strictly reporting the so-called facts.
Of course nobody wants (or needs) silly one-sided viewpoints or foolish pseudo-pundits (ie, Fox Tv), an approach leading surely to more profit and less information — Rutten is right here: hate & blood, and sex, always sell. But a “no-partisan journalism, leaving advocacy to the editorial pages” seems an equally out-of-mind and obsolete solution. Putting facts first? But we already gather them from a variety of sources, both online and offline. And today almost everybody is learning how to individually filter the Net cacophony, to get a personal viewpoint making sense in and of our everyday life. Actually, is not this alleged neutrality of newsmedia that is being rejected by so many motivated people in the first place? The old “facts first” idea is exactly one of the main causes of the unstoppable newspaper decline all over the world (as those reports reveal again and again).
So, could a back-to-an-alleged-objectivity call be an answer for the increasingly dissatisfied, young, better-educated, web/blog-crowds worldwide? Don’t think so. Neither is a solution to give always so great attention to the Big Media, the usual gatekeepers that one way or another are only interested in profit and manipulation. Enough with those “serious news organizations”. Better to aim and work toward a bottom-up, horizontal structure where (mostly) we are are the media and they need to catch up with us, printing intelligent analysis and commentaries, thus becoming, yes, “serious viewspapers”. Otherwise tomorrow’s newspaper will be very different indeed, a useless ghost of the past that very few will hold in their hands — which is not necessarily a bad thing.



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