Monday, September 29, 2008

Web isn't the problem, nor a substitute: press insiders

Two recent pieces about the Internet's influence and impact on print and -- more importantly -- content both speculate that newsmagazines and newspapers have value and will coexist with web-delivered news once workable business models are developed.

Bob Guccione Jr. on Huffington Post is optimistic about newsrooms, writing, "The future couldn't be brighter, as soon as we recognize that digital technology is the modern-day equivalent of color printing and faster presses, and that the thing that feeds the new machine is the same thing that fed the old one: imagination.

"The Internet is not a thoughtful entity," writes the former publisher of SPIN magazine. "It's a fertile ecosystem spawning a dazzling array of exotic flora, with the potential to improve mankind exponentially. It's an infinite network of railway tracks, along which travel an unfathomable number of rail cars loaded with thoughts and information, some of the cargo precious, some worthless. But the Internet didn't create any of it. It only delivers it."

Eventually, media commerce will stabilize, Guccione adds.

"The advertising model will shift from the unrealistic promise of infinite audiences to smaller aggregations of people really engaged, really interested, and predictably present," he writes.

More idealistic -- and more combative -- is a piece by Chris Hedges for Truthdig.

"Newspapers, when well run, are a public trust," Hedges writes. "They provide, at their best, the means for citizens to examine themselves, to ferret out lies and the abuse of power by elected officials and corrupt businesses, to give a voice to those who would, without the press, have no voice, and to follow, in ways a private citizen cannot, the daily workings of local, state and federal government. Newspapers hire people to write about city hall, the state capital, political campaigns, sports, music, art and theater. They keep citizens engaged with their cultural, civic and political life.

"The decline of newspapers is not about the replacement of the antiquated technology of news print with the lightning speed of the Internet," continues Hedges, author of American Fascists: The Christian Right and the War on America. "It does not signal an inevitable and salutary change. It is not a form of progress. The decline of newspapers is about the rise of the corporate state, the loss of civic and public responsibility on the part of much of our entrepreneurial class and the intellectual poverty of our post-literate world, a world where information is conveyed primarily through rapidly moving images rather than print."

Guccione's entire essay is here --

Hedges's is here --