Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Newspaper replacement phase 1? But ...

The NY Times had a good article yesterday on smaller news operations that have sprung up in major cities and that are doing the watchdog role their weakened local papers are giving up.

In many ways, this is the first phase of the replacement of the newspaper I have written about (again, remember that "newspaper" here does not necessarily mean ink on paper, but the large, multifaceted newsroom) in the context of the online subscription argument.

Yet, I continue to be nagged by a question: Can we ever replicate the legal/financial throw weight that enabled papers like the Times go toe to toe with the government over things like the Pentagon Papers?

Do we need to?

Is it even the right question?

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At 11/18/08, 7:44 PM, Blogger -30- said...

Would something a kin to the EFF (ttp://www.eff.org/about) play that roll?

At 11/19/08, 9:14 AM, Blogger Doug Fisher said...

No, I don't think so. The EFF is very much a needed organization in its space, but its space is really not investigative reporting.

Certainly, there exist numerous organizations like the EFF in various niches. But I have trouble getting over the idea that somehow, somewhere you need journalism organizations with the economic throw weight to go toe to toe with government and that have the power to outlast government's inherent advantages.

I think the problem is the reality that in the digital age, many aspects of commerce, education, life, etc. effectively atomize -- the Internet hates middlemen (aka aggregators). But government does not; in fact it might be argued that it centralizes, thus the power imbalance becomes greater.

I may well be challenged on that -- and please do so. And maybe someone sees a way to harness these small but growing organizations into a force with the requisite throw weight.

But it continues to be a subject that troubles me.

At 11/19/08, 7:45 PM, Blogger Heradel said...

Maybe enough of these independents could band together enough to pay into a common fund for legal troubles that would go to a single firm or organization that would represent the disparate entities? (One problem with this would be having legal representation in all of the states, but I'm sure those details could be worked out.)

Especially at this early stage, there doesn't seem to be much of a cutthroat atmosphere and it would seem like a logical solution to the problems of the community as a whole.

At 11/20/08, 12:48 PM, Blogger Doug Fisher said...

Possibly, but as John Zhu says there are so many moving parts to coordinate ... I wonder about its effectiveness.

At 11/21/08, 4:57 PM, Blogger Davisull said...

Doug: Yours is not only the right question, it is in the end the only meaningful question. Journalism without the ability for an organization to look power in the eye on reasonably equal terms is simply people talking about what they think. That's nice, and it's what the netroots are all about, but it does not take much effort to subvert or hijack it. Attention wanes, time gets taken up, blowhards drive away the sincere.

The journalistic reason to reinforce something that can support large undertakings is that power only respects power, and power comes from numbers. To believe otherwise is to believe that technology will change human nature -- which, of course, has been the underlying meme of the Internet era, that given these wonderful tools and opportunities, given this creation of a universal agora open to everyone who wanders in, a better world must result.

Maybe in the end Ray Kurzweil will be right and technology will supplant human nature -- but until then...


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