citizen journalists, no matter their integrity, just aren’t going to cut it. this, from frank rich of the new york times:
But opinions, however insightful or provocative and whether expressed online or in print or in prime time, are cheap. Reporting the news can be expensive. Some of it — monitoring the local school board, say — can and is being done by voluntary “citizen journalists” with time on their hands, integrity and a Web site. But we can’t have serious opinions about America’s role in combating the Taliban in Pakistan unless brave and knowledgeable correspondents (with security to protect them) tell us in real time what is actually going on there. We can’t know what is happening behind closed doors at corrupt, hard-to-penetrate institutions in Washington or Wall Street unless teams of reporters armed with the appropriate technical expertise and assiduously developed contacts are digging night and day. Those reporters have to eat and pay rent, whether they work for print, a TV network, a Web operation or some new bottom-up news organism we can’t yet imagine.
It’s immaterial whether we find the fruits of their labors on paper, a laptop screen, a BlackBerry, a Kindle or podcast. But someone — and certainly not the government, with all its conflicted interests — must pay for this content and make every effort to police its fairness and accuracy. If we lose the last major news-gathering operations still standing, there will be no news on Google News unless Google shells out to replace them. It won’t.
… What can’t be reinvented is the wheel of commerce. Just because information wants to be free on the Internet doesn’t mean it can always be free. Web advertising will never be profitable enough to support ambitious news gathering. If a public that thinks nothing of spending money on texting or pornography doesn’t foot the bill for such reportage, it won’t happen.
… The real question is for the public, not journalists: Does it want to pony up for news, whatever the media that prevail?
It’s all a matter of priorities. Not long ago, we laughed at the idea of pay TV. Free television was considered an inalienable American right (as long as it was paid for by advertisers). Then cable and satellite became the national standard.
… But if a comprehensive array of real news is to be part of the picture as well, the time will soon arrive for us to put up or shut up. Whatever shape journalism ultimately takes in America, make no mistake that in the end we will get what we pay for.
hmmm. so maybe rupert murdoch is right, after all?
you’ll gather that my opinion on whether we should be paying for news content on the web is fluctuating with the wind. maybe that’s because it’s where the rest of my career lies and therefore i’m desperate for any solution that continues to pay my salary. or maybe it’s because on this issue a suck-it-and-see approach to any solution, however egregious it seems at first glance, may be the only way to find an answer.
time will tell, i guess.
read the rest of ‘the american press on suicide watch’ here. i highly recommend it.