I read Save the Press (under a different title: ‘Why we need newspapers’) of Timothy Egan, in the largest English business daily of the world.

I did talk about it in Relentless upheaval in the media. It’s the best (or worst!) example of creative destruction that Schumpeter talked about and which we all can sense. The beauty of Egan’s online article is in its 164 comments or so, when I checked it.

One of the best articles (because I didn’t hear the speech!) on that was probably delivered by Bill Keller, the NYT editor again, on Hugo Young Memorial lecture in 2007.   

The point is – let the print media, with its very high marginal costs (unlike the electronic media), should focus more on reporting than on opinion and analysis. Reporting is the core competence of the journalists, not opinion and analysis. And reporting isn’t easy, as Bill Keller pointed out.  

We are free to have our own opinions and analysis; however we are not free to have our own facts. The correct presentation of facts can lead to correct opinion and analysis. That’s how judiciary works, and that’s how much of academic research also works.  

I, like most bloggers, never had been to any journalism school. The best part of journalism, whatever less I know about it, I read in an academic post. It was not on journalism, it was on Information Technology. I came across the six fundamental questions that a journalist should ask in Zachman’s framework, which was put as ‘fundamentals of communication found in the primitive interrogatives: What, How, When, Who, Where, and Why’.  

Unlike the print media of the west, Indian print media has not yet faced the onslaught of the web as ‘the web is the future’. And as Reuters recently pointed out, Indian (print) media seldom asks any of those six fundamental questions that any journalist must ask for every article.   

The quality of Indian media is probably as good as that of Indian parliament. The media in the US, at least a few which could establish themselves like Institutions, as I see it remotely, is probably superior to the US Congress. However all of them now produce more junk than what people expect from them. One response to the Reuters article was right when it talked about ‘churnalism’  by mainstream media globally, and even NYT, Bloomberg, Reuters, WSJ, FT do ‘churnalism’  more often than journalism.   

While on the media, another point that bothers me is regulation on ownership. In India, anyone can own a media company of any format. So we see print media getting into electronic media (TV-news), or even politicians running news-media. With digital convergence, production cost of content generation can come down when same content, in different formats, can be pushed across the mobile phone or the newspaper. If I am not mistaken, I believe cross-ownership of media still remains a contentious issue in the US. This was a great regulatory policy of past-years, however with changing times, many fail to understand how it is relevant in present age.  

Many of us, from the rest of the world, would love to have NYT as a channel over cables, as we have BBC or CNN. True, cross-ownership should still have checks and balances to ensure competition and diversity within broader mainstream media space. 

The changes affecting the print media and overall media are many. We don’t know yet how the revenue model of GoogleNews-AFP or similar alliance would look like in future.

The points are well made by Egan. We collectively empathize with the pain that print-media as an industry, and more so its journalists,  is going through. But it’s inevitable.  

As an outsider of both the government and of media, and also by being a blogger myself, I do welcome the changes that the Internet has brought in. It’s the anarchy phase that leads to radical innovations, which Schumpeter termed as ‘creative destruction’.  

If any collective opinion of the blogosphere can be taken, irrespective of nationalities, I believe most are fed-up with the government as well as with the mainstream media. True, the alternate media isn’t in a position yet to suggest a better alternative to both. And one can’t write off this collective blogosphere opinion as ‘wishful thinking’. 

After the anarchy, we sure can look forward to a new-era. Once the anarchy is over, the changes should not affect the real journalist, because the function of journalism is more important than the format of it. Bill Keller knows it right.  

We only hope against hopes, like any revolution with mass-movement, that this online revolution can lead us to better quality of governance, and better quality of media, including print media. 

Jefferson could probably not foresee that most democratic governments in most nations would follow democracy in words and not in actions. Neither could he foresee the degeneration of most newspapers as we see today. The blogosphere would rather choose the last option had Jefferson thought about present Internet age with three options: 

“Were it left to the blogosphere to decide the best option out of (1) we should have a government without newspapers or (2) newspapers without a government, or (3) none, we should not hesitate a moment to prefer the last.”

Ranjit is an Associate Professor at Indian Institute of Foreign Trade, and is the author of the book Wondering Man, Money & Go(l)d

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