From Town Criers to Bloggers: How Will Journalism Survive the Internet Age?
Dear FTC, Between bankruptcies, leveraged buyouts, and mergers, the news media landscape is becoming anemic in terms of density, coverage, diversity, and independence. The result is a trend toward decreasing both content and rigor; stories which pander to (rather than challenge) readers in an effort to make news more accessible, fun, and inoffensive. While the goal of newsrooms was once to inform, it is now to entertain and to stanch subscription losses; while news once was just that, it is now a product with a profit margin. (And if you doubt those assertions, please compare today's Chicago Tribune with that of just a few years ago.) As cliched as it sounds, America's democracy is threatened by the winnowing-down of not only its mainstream journalism, but also its other forms of journalism - investigative journalism, watchdog journalism, ombudsman journalism, independent journalism, etc. The FTC's #1 priority is both the preservation of REAL news sources (mainly print and televised news) and the reinvigoration of their independence. To that end, I offer four suggestions: 1) increase subsidization of public media to make it on par with BBC, 2) institute federal bail-outs of floundering news companies a la General Motors and Bank of America, 3) create grants to provide incentives for journalists, and, 4) break up existing media monopolies and exercise stricter oversight of future mergers. Finally, Internet news "outlets" are usually nothing more than digital Xerox machines, passing along news stories from journalists. Blogs, meanwhile, are news in its worst form - preaching to a choir - where diversity of news and viewpoints is neither offered nor desired. (FYI - I am an engineer "techie", not a Luddite.) Don't let the fourth estate suffer the fate of real estate! Thank you. Paul Mack