Newspaper of the Future

Friday, January 28, 2011


News existed before newsprint. Will it exist after? Of course, according to Yochai Benkler. What we confront, he argues, is a set of practical questions: what do we need in our news? What do we care about? The author of The Wealth of Networks describes our shift from the newspaper we get to the newspaper we seek.

Comments [2]

Nathan Landau

It's true, as this interviewee said, that the period before the onset of the internet was not a journalistic utopia. Many newspapers were lazy, especially in one newspaper cities. Many papers had reverted to the roles of being junior partners of government and business. Inconvenient truths were often ignored.

But the picture was better in the 1970's. The most prestigious newspapers in the country--the New York Times and the Washington Post--were willing to speak truth to power. Investigative reporting was widely practiced, even trendy. As a result of the Watergate scandal that the Post broke, a President was ultimately forced to resign. That President had, only two years earlier, won a landslide election victory.

Not every newspaper in the 70's was a journalistic diamond, of course, but many were doing serious local and even national or (gasp) international reporting. The newspapers of that era both fed and were nurtured by a climate of political engagement and skepticism that hadn't curdled into jejune cynicism. They were also challenged by weekly papers that were genuine, if frequently eccentric, expressions of local concerns, weekly papers that hadn't yet been bought up by ideologically motivated national chains.

It may well be true, as said by the blogger quoted by this segment stated, that newspapers will disappear and nothing will replace them. There are no guarantees in an economic system that has decided that it does not need newspapers to sell products. Unlike your speaker, I do not find that fact liberating or empowering. Perhaps in affluent Montclair, New Jersey, amateurs will be able to keep the local government on its toes. In poor, immigrant Bell, California, it took the LA Times to do this.

The threats to free expression in this society are serious. Not all political forces in this country prioritize free speech. What would this society would be like if we didn't have newspapers highlighting abuses?

Jan. 30 2011 06:53 PM
Edmund Feingold from Illinois

In his discussion of the revolution of journalism, Yochai Benkler, said that "we need the ability to extract information from powerful entities against their will, so we need some form of leak extraction or preservation mechanism." He goes on to say that we might not need professional journalists for this function; a network of private individuals could serve this purpose.

As I see it, this arguement has one major flaw. Laws governing media's source protection are already being challenged for those who operate inside or on the margin of the journalistic profession. By not having leaks covered by professionals, the sources of that information may be exposed to a great deal more public scrutiny, perhaps harrasment and/or prosecution. The damage may be that fewer will come forward with leaks if they are at risk of being identified and harrassed. This seems to me a potentially severe blow to our freedom of speech and the liberty of journalism in a free society.

Jan. 29 2011 05:13 PM

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