US government to examine direction of journalism

Via Nieman Journalism Lab

In the US, the Federal Communications Commission has issued a public notice today seeking comment on the ‘future of media and information needs of communities in a digital age’.

The objective of this review is to assess whether all Americans have access to vibrant, diverse sources of news and information that will enable them to enrich their lives, their communities and our democracy.
 
The Future of Media project will produce a report providing a clear, precise assessment of the current media landscape, analyze policy options and, as appropriate, make policy recommendations to the FCC, other government entities, and other parties.

It sets out its reasons for the undertaking – talking about worrying trends in the industry and quoting research from Pew and Columbia:

These trends could have dire consequences for our democracy and the health of communities, hindering citizens’ ability to hold their leaders and institutions accountable.

It says that while it is a time of difficulty for the industry there is also opportunity to be found and points to the benefits the digital age creates for newsgathering and the choice it offers consumers.

The FCC asks 42 questions under a number of headings including:

Newspapers and Magazines
Information Needs of Communities & Citizens
Business Models and Financial Trends
Commercial Broadcast TV and Radio Cable and Satellite
Noncommercial and Public Media
Internet and Mobile

Along with paper submissions, comments can be made to the FCC through a special website, which they are launching for the project: www.fcc.gov/futureofmedia

Even if you don’t intend to submit anything  the questions are worth a read.

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The future of journalism more promising than ever – Murdoch

Rupert Murdoch is out and about again today in the Wall Street Journal with an opinion piece on the future of journalism.

While I may not agree with all he has to say in this piece, it is part of a much bigger debate that has kicked off about these issues – which is a very good thing.

The opinion piece is a version of what he presented recently to a Federal Trade Commission’s workshop on journalism and the Internet.

Some quick thoughts on what he says:

  • He blames the editors, the producers, bloggers even governments – but why not the media companies who started giving away news for free to begin with?
  • He is on the button when he says newspapers have prospered only because they provide the news that is important to the communities they serve:
  • That means covering the communities where they live, exposing government or business corruption, and standing up to the rich and powerful.

  • I disagree when he says organisations need to give the people the news they want. This idea can be taken too far.  You can serve a community well without pandering to it and there is a middle ground between producing news for prizes and only news people want:
  • First, media companies need to give people the news they want. I can’t tell you how many papers I have visited where they have a wall of journalism prizes—and a rapidly declining circulation.

  • He says customers are smart enough to know you don’t get something for nothing. Well this is what they’ve been getting for the past decade or so and are now complaining about losing – so I wouldn’t be so sure about that. Readers of the Wall Street Journal may be able to see the value of paying for the content of that publication (after-all it helps many of them make business decisions – so it’s a worthwhile investment), but will readers of the more-general publications like The Times or The Sun feel the same way?
  • He says he is open to different pay models, which seems wise considering the various types of publications and products in News Corp’s stable.
  • I am not so sure he is the best person to talk about competition particularly in an article in which he renews his calls to the FCC about cross-ownership.
  • Whether the newspaper of the future is delivered with electrons or dead trees is ultimately not that important. What is most important is that the news industry remains free, independent—and competitive.

Despite asserting that the future of journalism is more promising than ever – this is not the overall tone of this opinion piece.  In fact, it seems to me that even he is not sure of the future or maybe he’s just not ready to show his FULL hand.

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