Print media are in dire trouble – but blogs are no substitute says Andrew Sullivan in the Times Online:
The terrifying problem is that a one-man blog cannot begin to do the necessary labour-intensive, skilled reporting that a good newspaper sponsors and pioneers. A world in which reporting becomes even more minimal and opinion gets even more vacuous and unending is not a healthy one for a democracy. Perhaps private philanthropists will step in and finance not-for-profit journalistic centres, where investigative and foreign reporting can be invested in and disseminated by blogs and online sites. Maybe reporter-bloggers will start rivalling opinion-mongers such as me and give the whole enterprise some substance. Maybe papers can slim down sufficiently to produce a luxury print issue and a viable online product. There’s always a hunger for news, after all.
I’m not a journalist nor a reporter and have no experience in mainstream media but I understand the Web and I think Sullivan gets it completely wrong. First of all, there is no such thing as a “one-man blog”, as all blogs are connected to other blogs and media. Also, blogs are not limited by print space, so articles can be much longer than print media offers and most have hyperlinks to more information. This is a richer reading experience, where facts can be checked while reading and engage the reader to do more than receive the wisdom imparted by the journalist. Comments and self-corrections keep blogs on-track, as opposed to corrections that appear in a newspaper the next day on page 12. What Sullivan proposes with a slimmed-down paper and online presence already exists with magazines, like FastCompany. On one thing I will agree; blogs are not a substitute for newspapers, they are an entirely new medium and are just starting to find their place after the initial exuberance.
Directly comparing print media with digital media is the wrong approach but is often heard in education as well. A webinar is not as rich as a classroom, or you cannot replace face-to-face interaction with the instructor, are common complaints. Digital media enable new kinds of relationships, some richer and some more limited, but the Web offers much that we did not have before. I am certain that democracy, and learning, can be enhanced with digital media, but we have to stop looking back with simplistic and direct comparisons, and get on with making our interconnected world work.