This week’s Economist has a couple of interesting articles on news and media, so if you’re interested in the subject you should probably pick up a copy. Meanwhile, here as links to the print articles on the Economist website:
How newspapers are faring: A little local difficulty
“The United States is the worst case that we see worldwide, and a lot of media news comes out of the US, so it is exceedingly negative. But the US experience is not being replicated elsewhere,” says Larry Kilman, deputy head of the World Association of Newspapers (WAN), an industry body. “There’s an assumption that there’s a single crisis affecting all news organisations, and that’s not the case,” says David Levy, director of the Reuters Institute for the Study of Journalism at Oxford University. “There are different kinds of crisis in different countries, and some countries in the developing world are experiencing expansion rather than decline.”
Making news pay: Reinventing the newspaper
Another tack, now being tried across America, is to build new, internet-native metropolitan news organisations supported by philanthropy. Examples include the Voice of San Diego, the St Louis Beacon, the MinnPost in Minneapolis, the Texas Tribune in Austin and the Bay Citizen in San Francisco. “Where they exist, they are doing a very good job, in some cases exceeding the quality of dailies,” says Mr Doctor. Because traditional newspapers are in trouble, these not-for-profit online news organisations can take their pick of experienced journalists, many of whom are also attracted by the new sites’ focus on politics, civic engagement and accountability journalism. “We believe the gap that we’re trying to fill has to do with reporting,” says Jonathan Weber, editor of the Bay Citizen. “There’s a lot of opinion out there, and a dearth of reporting.”
Impartiality: The Foxification of news
One way forward, suggests Mr Rosen, is to abandon the ideology of viewlessness and accept that journalists have a range of views; to be open about them while holding the reporters to a basic standard of accuracy, fairness and intellectual honesty; and to use transparency, rather than objectivity, as the new foundation on which to build trust with the audience. He cites the memorable phrase coined by David Weinberger, a technology commentator, that “transparency is the new objectivity”. In part, this involves journalists providing information about themselves. For example, on AllThingsD, a technology-news site owned by Dow Jones, all the journalists provide an “ethics statement” with information about their shareholdings, financial relationships and, in some cases, their personal life (two journalists are married to employees at large technology companies). “People are more likely to trust you if they know where you are coming from,” says Mr Rosen.
Lastly, an answer the popular question, “Who the hell still buys CDs?” Germans do!
Germany’s odd media: Last-mover advantage
Despite iTunes, piracy and a shrinking population, CD sales have fallen much more gently in Germany than elsewhere (see chart). Germany used to compete with France for the title of Europe’s second-biggest music market, well behind Britain. It is now Europe’s biggest market. The country has exported pop acts like Tokio Hotel (pictured) across Europe. Unheilig, a band that sings in German, popped up on last year’s global top 40 albums chart, beating the likes of Gorillaz and Robbie Williams.
Never heard of Unheilig, but then I’ve never heard of Gorillaz either… kids these days and their silly bands.