Who"s davidlian?

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davidlian is an ultra-geeky chinese dude that works for a technology PR agency. He loves fiddling with techno-toys, plays Warhammer 40K, and shoots pictures wherever he goes. Here, he rants about PR, Technology and anything else. Don't expect balance and un-biased, he ain't no journalist. Anything said on this blog are solely davidlian's personal views. Don't confuse them with company mantra, client's views or views of any organisation he may be part of.


Monday, April 7, 2008

Blogs won't wipe out Newspapers

I've just read the Eric Alterman's fantastic treatise on the future of the American newspaper, conspiciously titled "Out of Print", and one particular phrase really piqued my interest.

Alterman writes:

It is a point of ironic injustice, perhaps, that when a reader surfs the Web in search of political news he frequently ends up at a site that is merely aggregating journalistic work that originated in a newspaper...
I thought: "Hey, that's me!"

What Alterman is pointing out is that the very bloggers who are being hailed as the successors to the established media institutions are in fact reliant on the very media they are tipped to succeed. But the gaping, unanswered question is - what happens when print goes?

The assumption is most bloggers (myself included) are not news generators, merely aggregators. The modus operandi is to reference other news sites or articles found in newspapers and add an opinion. But if newspapers were not to exist anymore, where would this primary source of news come from?

"But," you say, "didn't this last elections demonstrate the fact that people trust online media and blogs more than the established institutions?" The answer is yes. But the rebuttal is that political news is not all the news there is in the world.

If I were to stop reading The Star, NST, The Sun, Harian Metro or any of the mainstream papers I read everyday, I'd never hear about the plight of a lorry driver, or reusable rubber gloves, or even the Sufiah Omar story which was broken by Britain's biggest-selling newspaper.

Which blogger is going to have the 1) organisational support structures 2) clout and 3) access to contacts in order to generate these news stories? Not every blogger is going to be invited to press events. Not every blogger is going to be able to wave a press tag and get clearance to check public records (investigative journalism, does it happen here?). Not every blogger is going to have their work checked and edited several times to ensure factual accuracy or quote multiple sources. Not every blogger is / was a journalist.

This is, of course, a generalisation and there are going to be exceptions. But, generally-speaking, if the newspaper disappears, so does the organisation that serves as our primary news source. And I'm predicting that can't happen.

We still need proper reporting (the lead story, quotes from multiple sources, verified numbers and facts). We need wide reporting (coverage from top political news, all the way to those human interest stories you know only a select few will read). We need a news vehicle that will push us news outside our interests (so we are exposed to the reality of the world around us).

This doesn't mean media organisations won't change. They have to, this much is clear. In this age of instantaneous reporting, expect to see the established media institutions using the online medium more and more. Expect to see some blogs (like Gizmodo) become media institutions (e.g. Gawker Media) in their own right.

Don't expect to see newspapers becoming blogs (though some blogging may happen). Blogs won't wipe out newspapers.


Tim said...

Slate had an article about this some time back as well. Blogs won't wipe out newspapers - BUT, what they will do is

1) Force newspapers to become more up-to-date. News the next day isn't acceptable any more.

2) Newspapers may still be our "food source" of news, but bloggers "digest it", going over and over it, picking out the tidbits and the inaccuracies. Yes, a lot of repetition and lacking in originality, but everyone becomes much more involved in newsmaking.

davidlian said...

Tim, yes and no. On point 1: I think what we will see is more and more papers transitioning to using online platforms to deliver news. But you'd still get your daily newspaper. Most of Malaysia still needs this.

Point 2: Indeed there will be some "digesting" but I also think that we're still going to be dependent on journalists to provide the initial, researched, unbiased viewpoint (ideally). Basically, it's very hard for a blogger to pick out an inaccuracy, unless that blogger has access to the primary source (unlikely) or the inaccuracy has been reported elsewhere (more likely).

Then again, it's possible that eventually the blogosphere will be big enough so that virtually every story can be cross-checked by the whole community for factual accuracy.