|"Losing Perspective" - John C. Dvorak|
by Stefanie at 12:17 pm EDT, May 27, 2008
These days everyone is so enthusiastic about the evolution of the Web, with its free content, interesting blogs, citizen journalism, and the rest of it. Not me. The big problem, as I see it, is the decline in general perspective, which is due to the decline in the popularity of newspapers and magazines.
It all started with the idea of the custom newspaper. I've always been against it. It's been trotted about as a supposed good idea since the birth of the Internet. "You only get what news you want to get" was the sales pitch. But how do you really know what news you want when the story has not been written? Most people who want custom news tend to want news only about their hobby or interests. Should a plague sweep through their city, they probably wouldn't know about it until they were dying from it.
Meanwhile, the public continues to read about what they already know. And they hang out only with like-minded people. There are huge cadres of people who are practically duplicates of each other. They all think alike, dress alike, and go to the same group-approved places.
So the audience goes to the Net to get information—most of it without perspective, and, thus, the days of a wide public perspective of the world are almost gone. I blame these three factors: the Internet; newspapers, for not acting responsibly and instead cheapening their product; and educational institutions. Schools do not teach kids how to use the Net responsibly. Kids need to be shown how to make it a useful resource rather than a source of disinformation and gossip.
|RE: 'Losing Perspective' - John C. Dvorak|
by Stefanie at 12:38 pm EDT, May 27, 2008
Compare Dvorak's comments with those in the Economist article Who killed the newspaper? from a couple of years ago.
Having ignored reality for years, newspapers are at last doing something. In order to cut costs, they are already spending less on journalism. Many are also trying to attract younger readers by shifting the mix of their stories towards entertainment, lifestyle and subjects that may seem more relevant to people's daily lives than international affairs and politics are. They are trying to create new businesses on- and offline. And they are investing in free daily papers, which do not use up any of their meagre editorial resources on uncovering political corruption or corporate fraud. So far, this fit of activity looks unlikely to save many of them. Even if it does, it bodes ill for the public role of the Fourth Estate.
Nobody should relish the demise of once-great titles. But the decline of newspapers will not be as harmful to society as some fear. Democracy, remember, has already survived the huge television-led decline in circulation since the 1950s. It has survived as readers have shunned papers and papers have shunned what was in stuffier times thought of as serious news. And it will surely survive the decline to come.
The usefulness of the press goes much wider than investigating abuses or even spreading general news; it lies in holding governments to account—trying them in the court of public opinion. The internet has expanded this court. Anyone looking for information has never been better equipped. People no longer have to trust a handful of national papers or, worse, their local city paper. News-aggregation sites such as Google News draw together sources from around the world. The website of Britain's Guardian now has nearly half as many readers in America as it does at home.
In addition, a new force of “citizen” journalists and bloggers is itching to hold politicians to account. The web has opened the closed world of professional editors and reporters to anyone with a keyboard and an internet connection. Several companies have been chastened by amateur postings—of flames erupting from Dell's laptops or of cable-TV repairmen asleep on the sofa. Each blogger is capable of bias and slander, but, taken as a group, bloggers offer the searcher after truth boundless material to chew over. Of course, the internet panders to closed minds; but so has much of the press.