Saturday, November 22, 2008

The Crisis of Journalism

According to Los Angeles Times, Six Apart, the company behind major commercial blogging platforms TypePad and Movable Type, is offering free blogs to laid-off journalists via their Journalist Bailout Program:

Hello, recently-laid-off or fearful-of-layoffs journalist! We're Six Apart (you know us as the nice folks who make Movable Type or TypePad, which maybe you used for blogging at your old newspaper or magazine) and we want to help you.

We're a company founded by bloggers, and we've supported on-line journalism from the beginning. During a time when so many great journalists are worried about losing their jobs, we want to do what we can to help. So we've put together a program to put you on your first steps towards independence.

But I did not read the story from LAT first. While Times focused on how generous was Anil Dash's (from Six Apart) offer and the difficulties of making money on-line, it was Graham of Entrecard who truly got to the bottom of the real crisis we would be facing and started a discussion:

The true benefits of journalism, and what sets it apart from a free blog you set up on the Internet with two clicks, is that it's backed by a healthy business with important infrastructure in place to receive new tips, report news factually and accurately, and be held accountable for any facts they publish.

I am sure you have caught the irony here. While journalists light heartedly talk about it, bloggers discuss serious issues. The situation is a little bit more complicated (my subjective view) for the confines of a comment there, so I am picking it up here.

Let us sum up the crisis we are facing:
  • Very few trust the media as is, including myself
  • There is a growing tendency to entertain than to inform in the media
  • Bloggers lack the means for investigative reporting
  • The lack of accountability on the Internet helped a few incidents be uncovered but a- this is an exception, b- it is changing, c- it will not be valid for the journalists (the threat of legal action against them will be real)
  • It is difficult for journalists to sustain themselves by blogging let alone pay attorneys' fees should they face a legal action
  • A properly functioning democracy requires informed citizens, a prerequisite only independent journalism can provide.
I will briefly cover each of the above and explore the possibility of on-line solutions in the days ahead.

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