Following the ‘decade of difference’

Posted on January 5, 2010

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Charlie Beckett, the director of journalism and society think-tank POLIS, thinks that the world of journalism is capable of adapting its business models to the new technologies in this coming decade. Thank God for that, I hear students of journalism (including myself) gratefully saying. Yet Becket does not suggest any solid ideas on how online journalism can become sustainable, instead rather lamely asking “what is going to work?”. He also works on the assumption that the public must at some point have to start paying for online content. This is an assumption that I have yet to be convinced by, and we await the results the first in the media world to take this step. Other options area available, whether more efficient use of advertising money or public funding. For Beckett, though, the challenge seems to be making online content worthy of a viewers money, for they will inevitably have to start paying for it at some point.

He then touches on democracy, though he ignores a view of mine that free viewing of some form of independent news outlet, be it online or elsewhere, is crucial to democracy. He mentions how governments have become more transparent through the web, drawing attention to Obama’s data.gov. The internet has created greater accountability. Tweetminster and They Work For You offer more regular and more detailed insights into the actions of our elected leaders. Twitter and the ability to comment on most news websites means events or statements made anywhere in the world can be condoned or attacked by anyone with a laptop, phone or Blackberry to hand.

But Beckett also asks that the media enters into the spirit of this dawning age by becoming more accountable and participatory itself. For too long now our media has been detached from our needs, shackled instead to big business and super-capitalism. The media that we all rely on needs to show us that it is worthy of this, that it is capable of meeting these responsibilities. It is my belief that currently it is not. Maybe this debate is the one with which we should open the new decade.

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Posted in: Issues, Media