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The Media

Future Of Journalism 43

rhysweatherley writes: "This year's Andrew Olle Lecture was presented by Eric Beecher of Text Media, and deals with the current and future state of "real" journalism, including the impact of the online world on traditional journalism (not all of it good). It is a good insight from one of the media's insiders in Australia. More information on the Andrew Olle Lecture series can be found here." I thought this was interesting. A little different than the usual Slashdot fare, but good reading nonetheless.
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Future of Journalism

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  • as someone on the advertising side of journalism, I can say that there's something of a love-hate relationship between advertising people and journalists.

    The truth is that all journalism needs funding of some sort (in a capitalist society, at least...) and that that source of money generally wants to have some sort of influence on editorial content. Fail to do so, and the source of funds dry up. This is true in the USA even including PBS (in my area, my local PBS station would lose its funding if it didn't show excessive amounts of Lawrence Welk.) Journalists hate that. To allow advertising dollars or other funds to affect their decisions in story writing is unthinkable (at least to some.) In the end, some sort of compromise must be made.

    Choose what you will--starve for good journalism, or grow fat and complacent on mediocre drivel. Me, I choose the world of drivel (just kidding.)
  • Hold on now, what about that radio show "As It Happens"? Yeesh.
  • Eric Beecher does not work for the ABC, and as such this article is therefore opinion not propoganda (sic). He nows spend his time run a quality media operation, and worrying about running a profit, so of course he believes it is possible to do it for a profit.

    Your post should have been moderated flamebait not insightful.
  • Same sensationalistic garbage. This is exactly the kind of one-sided journalism I'm tired of reading.
  • remarkably, I actually saw this lecture live (delayed??) the other night broadcast by the ABC. It was quite a bombshell, especially the jibes about the MD of the ABC. Embarassingly, the author kept saying apologetically he wasn't trying to be personal. I don't think the listeners were that convinced. Especially poignant when the MD had to actually respond to the lecture after it was given. Quite a bunfight.

    The following comment stuck out in my mind, because it flies in the face of most editorial comment about the Internet that one typically hears in Australia, even the ABC.

    "Most of the dot-coms that were created and funded handsomely to deliver journalism are now struggling or defunct. Even the best American examples, such as Salon, Slate and The, are either running out of money or seem to have no prospect of making journalism a viable Internet proposition, or both."

    I personally agree, and have seen the continual devaluation of just about anything that the Internet has to offer, not just journalistic content.

    It would seem that the expectation is that if something is delivered over the internet, it should be free, and by implication if it's free, then it's not really worth much. This is especially relevant to much of the free software that can currently be obtained via the internet.

    I see parallels from what was said about the quality of journalism and the quality of software. In the same way as good journalism is expensive and requires very skilled and experienced manpower, I believe that good software is also expensive to build and maintain, and requires a similar degree of expertise. In my opinion, open source has the failing of not being underpinned by a strong commercial basis, and as a result suffers from quality control and lack of a strong visionary sense of direction.

    I know I am regarded as reactionary as far as the open source movement is concerned, but alas, I find it hard to be silent when I see an industry possibly heading in a direction that devalues software.

    In the same breath however, I am also disgusted at the excesses and manipulation that exist in the larger corporate software companies that also do little to forge new directions for the industry as a whole, and there are parallels here between journalism and software.

    Finally, I also see a parallel in terms of control. In the same way that the control of journalistic content is being used to manipulate society, I can see in the next few decades that those who control the software will also control society in their own way.
  • The plunge of media into full-blown incest is a disturbing trend. Media incest is the absorption and recycling of inexpensive, readily available material from other outlets, even when they are competitors. The full-bore Survivor orgy by print, broadcast and Internet media is a recent example but there are many others.
    Survivor was an entertainment program, but from the column inches and airtime devoted to it by news people, you would think it was a news event that actually affected news consumers. But they were served ersatz news. It is much cheaper for a news organization to pick up gratuitous video and PR from a television program, than it is to send a reporter out to cover and decipher complex events or public documents that may affect the lives, pocketbooks, health, and future of readers and viewers.
    This insidious practice, which crowds out legitimate local and world news was rare only a decade ago. Once, newspapers went out of their way not to publish content from competitors, such as television and magazines.
    The continued consolidation of news and publishing companies into conglomerates simply multiples the cross promotion and media incest. Example: Would Time Magazine have featured the ladies from HBO's "Sex and the City" on it's front cover, if Time Warner did not own HBO? Would Time have even covered the subject of singles lifestyles? The problem in recognizing ersatz news is in realizing what legitimate news was not covered.

  • The Aust govt experimented briefly with licensing fees for TV back when TV was first introduced, but quickly found the cost of policing in a country nearly the size of the US with a (then) population of
    This random snippet of useless information was brought to you by..
  • >AC: And what is wrong with state funded broadcasting ?

    If I subscribe to a commercial channel, that is my decision. If a government decides to finance a channel, I pay for it merely by virtue of being a citizen of that country, whether or not I want to watch that channel. I consider that an affront to my liberty.

    Based on the reasoning of an abstract 'liberty' this is a seductive line. When held up to inspection against substantive reality, however, it falls apart. In the free-to-air broadcasting world, the concept of individual choice makes little sense. The simple choice of whether to watch or not (since commercial TV is unwatchable that choice is in any case forced) amounts to a very impoverished notion of 'liberty.' For myself I prefer the liberty that comes with having access to a diverse range of information, such as commercial TV in Australia (and elsewhere one suspects) refuses to provide. Alone on the basis of this kind of market failure a public intervention would be justified.

    However, as the High Court determined in ACTV [] Australian citizens enjoy a 'freedom of political communication' flowing from the nature of their representative democracy. Again this freedom, required by citizens in exercise of their political duties, would be merely a formal one (ie lacking substance) if they had access only to the unanimous view of the commercial media. On this (what might fashionably be called 'republican') ground too, a citizen might reasonably be called on to fund a public broadcaster.

    The real problem with government funded broadcasting, is one of independence, (though this is, perhaps not so pressing in an environment in which the commercial alternative exists.) The 'Corporation' in ABC is here of the greatest import, the ABC is a statutory corporation formally independent of the the government of the day. The concern, in these days of funding cuts and political appointsments to the board, is that 'Auntie' maintain her critical independence from the administration. It is against this background that the extra-curricular 'propaganda' of ABC journalists must be understood.

  • michael [mailto] commented that this article was "(a) little different than the usual Slashdot fare, but good reading nonetheless." I agree with him that it was an interesting read - the fate of modern media is an interesting topic and definitely open to discussion. I just wanted to comment that I think that articles like this should definitely be included on /. I know that at least I want to see salient news from across the board, from our *nix updates to important trends in the world today.

  • For those who don't know (i.e. anyone outside australia), Andrew Olle was a journalist with the abc [] (the government new agency), who died suddenly from a brain tumor.
  • This article is a piece of propoganda trying to protect ABC's budget. Much as I hate the idea of state funded broadcasting, the BBC is so damned good that I happily pay my licence fee.

    What do ozzies think of their state media?

    I, for one, would like to feel that a gov't sponsored media outlet that reports & preserves news of events & speeches of people of the day should be unbiased.

    A few examples illustrates some of the disappointments that I, for one, have experienced:

    1. Web site cuts "embarrassing tales" of Stolen Generation (Indigenous Children taken from their parents under gov't orders):

    Not long before the start of the Olympics, Australia's SBS (the publicly & ad -sponsored) multicultural TV channel broadcast most of the indigenous reconciliation event, known as "Corroboree 2000" - including a very impressive talk by aboriginal activist Mick Dodson, as well as the Prime Minister's words.

    Each was -broadcast- live & (apparently) in full during the event.

    Later, however, SBS's web site was noted to include just one short segment of a few words by the former speaker, but at least 4 longer segments from the PM's talk (the original talks were of about the same length, I believe).

    The effect was to leave out well-put tellings of historical comparisons that would be good to have told (to audiences beyond that which could have watched the Corroboree 2000 broadcast in Australia)

    SBS has since been contacted for leads to -either- a (future) re-broadcast of the Dodson speech -or- a video of the same.

    Nothing was forthcoming, nor was there any explanation to be had for the cutting of his speech down to a sentence or two on the SBS web site.

    2. ABC's "Australia All Over" talk-host retained after playing racist, hate-inciting song:

    No "Media Watch" presenter ever mentioned - let alone criticized - ABC's own Radio National presenter "Macca" (host of the popular "Australia All Over" program), when he played a racist, hate-inspiring song that called for a white uprising to kill off "those men without shoes" (in 1998)... played -immediately- after a live interview with an aboriginal man working in South Australia.

    3. No ABC or other media was interested in the recent abusive "denial-of-service" response made by police at an inner-Adelaide (South Australia) police station, that moved a young aboriginal woman to tears & talk of taking her own life, after she tried to report to police details of a physical assault that left her bleeding from several places.

    I happened to hear & see both of these, folks,... live and in colour; filed a complaint about each... and got a letter back from each of the organisations responsible.

    No more than counseling of the erring employees was deemed necessary, in each case.

    In the case of the police officer, only a form letter was received, after an "informal" handling of the matter...

    What did the news (quite rightly, I agree) were stories of commercial talk-show hosts' secret PR-for-$'s contracts (e.g. in which radio personalities give air-time to interviews with (banking, communications, etc.) business proponents and/or aired views positive to the companies or business interests on controvertial matters, in exchange for big bucks).

    With threats to ABC & other gov't media institutions, I would suggest that any insider(s) with stories to tell that would tend to taint their organisations' reputations... -isn't- going to come forward to blow the whistle.

    Like other government bodies, all is behind closed doors.

    PS An unpublished CD has been made of the ABC Radio National segment with the racist, hate-insiting song (and the preceding interview, for context), should anybody in an Aussie "Media Watch" group be interested in hearing it for some positive purpose.

    BTW I understand that, in USA, any complaints filed with a broadcaster are to be held in a PUBLICLY ACCESSIBLE file (albeit at the broadcaster's offices) and made available to regulators (FCC).

    Is this still so? Has any change of medium occured (e.g. requiring such complaints to be transcribed or even logged on the broadcaster's and/or the FCC's Internet web site(s)?)

    If not now, when? ;-|

  • Then maybe it is time for you to grow up and realize that there is no such thing as objective journalism. The difference is that some people spend a lot of money pretending that they are objective and non-biased, and some people (a la IMC) flat out admit that they aren't. Now, which one do you trust more?
  • hey, don't forget channel 29.

    I love my fishtank-cam and latvian dancing programs...

  • The author seems to push aside Internet journalism, because of finding it incapable of making profit. Still, it plays a role, and an example of it is Slashdot.
    The change that he does not notice is not in funding of journalism, but rather replacing paid people who decide what news are important and what not, and tell about them, with a community, where everyone can express whatever news they have to tell to others.
    I, personally, am all against newspapers because of their way of making decisions about importance instead of the public, and often doing it wrong. We don't need a centralised journalism service. News agencies will probably still be useful for providing hard facts, but opinions and decision-making should be left to the public, via some interactive feature. Slashdot's voting system is something like this, though not perfect. Also, to function properly, it would need the involvement of a larger audience. Maybe, in the future, CNN on interactive TV with viewers opinions and evaluation of both articles and opinions (drooling)..
  • The ABC is a lone voice in the sea of commercial interests. Rupert Murdoch, Kerrie Stokes and Kerrie Packer control the rest of the Australian Media, adn the ABC and SBS ore the only things worth watching on TV

    Long live independant voices

  • Nor do I consider it lefty, as it advocates US protectionism. Any genuine lefty would not advocate artificially protecting American jobs at the expense of jobs in Third World countries. That is an ugly and arbitrary promotion of the interests of one nationality at the expense of interests of people outside that group. Right wing.

    "artificially protecting American jobs at the expense of jobs in Third World countries" could merely imply being against free trade agreements such as NAFTA and World Trade Organization principles, which does not imply right-wing. Free trade has done lots of ugly things to first world and third world workers alike.

    Moreover, just because something does not fit the traditional mold of "left wing" does not imply that it is "right wing". Politics and principles are not boolean, nor even on a one-dimensional scale: read about the Pournelle Political Axes [], and why the traditional "left and right" model is harmful.

  • AC: And what is wrong with state funded broadcasting ?

    The same thing that is wrong with any extraneous government spending. If I subscribe to a commercial channel, that is my decision. If a government decides to finance a channel, I pay for it merely by virtue of being a citizen of that country, whether or not I want to watch that channel. I consider that an affront to my liberty. But as long as the BBC is good value for money, I will be a hypocrite and keep quiet about the compulsion issue.

  • Your interpretation of what I said is frankly ideutic. I didn't say "It's not left wing, therefore it is right wing." What I actually said was: "It is not left wing because it *is* right wing. Here is why it is right wing."

    I agree with you about the traditional left-right model being useless.

    You need to ask yourself more carefully what the motives are for protectionism of the sort Buchanan and the unions espouse. You should also consider free trade in the context of liberty. If I want to buy something from someone in another country and that person wants to sell it to me, it's highly offensive that my government tries to charge me a fee for doing so.

    The fact that I have generally observed freer trade causing a lot more good than less free trade is almost incidental to the liberty issue.

  • Even articles on CNN etc are often very slightly dressed up excerpts from the Reuters news ticker.

    But really, nobody reads slashdot for the journalism, do they? I thought the whole point was the message board system. As long as there is an interesting collection of people, you don't even need a link to CNN to start an interesting discussion. They could just say "gnome vs kde. discuss".

    no chicken egg problem.

  • The Nation is a total piece of shit. Nor do I consider it lefty, as it advocates US protectionism. Any genuine lefty would not advocate artificially protecting American jobs at the expense of jobs in Third World countries. That is an ugly and arbitrary promotion of the interests of one nationality at the expense of interests of people outside that group. Right wing.

    There is plenty of quality niche journalism on glossy paper, however. (And on the web).

  • Hoooraaaaayyy!

    Why is the IMC not on Slashdot more? something must be done about this.

    The IMC's next task is to cover the protest against the Trans-Atlantic Business Dialogue in Cincinatti. They will be in town from November 16-18.

    The TABD is a group of 200 ceos from the US and Europe who are hugely influential in trade organizations, like the World Trade Organization, that set trade, safety, environmental, intellectual property and labor standards. Most pertinent to Slashdot readers, they influence standards on things like piracy, encryption export, and copyrights. For info on the TABD:

    For info on the protests: and

    We need your crappy old (FUNCTIONING, CLEAN) PCs, 486 and above, for word processing and photo layout. Macs PowerMac and above are also welcome. If you have an old Classic or something, we will take that too! We also need people who would like to webcast, satellite broadcast, or do video, audio, or print journalism. WE ARE GOING UP IN A FEW DAYS! If anyone has computers, please contact me:

    and I will give you an address to send them. We'll try to compensate people for shipping.
  • Woohoo! Lock and load baby!
    Bush for President! Even he respects the rights of your local gun-toting Militia.

    Gore on the other hand wants to rob you of the right to shoot people you hate. ;)

    "The good thing about Alzheimer's is that you can hide your own Easter eggs."

  • LMAO, so much for the theory [] that this guy is trying to protect his job ;)

    "The good thing about Alzheimer's is that you can hide your own Easter eggs."

  • Ugh, a guy on my ICQ list says mmmm 'kay all the time and it annoys the shit out of me.
    I want to shoot the fucker.

    "The good thing about Alzheimer's is that you can hide your own Easter eggs."

  • There is also an 'other' state-owned TV channel in Britain, Channel Four. It carries advertisements and apart from a vague commitment to 'minority' programming, looks like a commercial TV station. I think this is the analogue of Canada's CBC, rather than the BBC - although rather than being subsidised, Channel Four makes a profit.
  • We have seen this only a couple times so far, and generally only with regard to video coverage: the Rodney King video is the prime example, of course.

    "Distributed Reporting" seems to work pretty well with /. (that is, it would work a LOT better if they had some real editors) and will get better. The nature of the gatekeepers is changing and we seem to do a lot better at exploring and explaining the various sides of most technical issues. It's messy as all hell but still in it's infancy as a media genre. I definitely think this is the way to go though...just get some real editors (or learn how to act like them).
  • Wow, this article is intelligent, well-written (or spoken, since it was originally a lecture), and balanced.

    Yep, it certainly is different from the usual /. fare.

    (Go ahead, mod me down. See if I care.)

  • The CBC model of parital public/private funding sounds pretty cool. Of course, in a sense, the American PBS is a bit like that already, since almost every program is preceeded by a "this is made possible by <insert commerical entity here>". How does the CBC look when you're watching it? Do they have pledge drives? Are there commercials? Does it seem just like a regular TV channel?
  • I think ABC along with SBS, provide an excellent counter weight to the commercial free to air TV and radio stations.

    Both the news segments on ABC TV and radio and SBS are excellent. ABC's news provides a commercially and politically (mostly) unbiased review of events around Australia and the world, while SBS provides a broader, not anglosised or americanised, review of world events.

    Although the commercial news segments are not to bad, they suffer badly from the CNN cut and paste disease, and that mindless fluffy filler crap. Why produce interesting indepth news stories of particular interest to Australians when they can just copy something from the US or the UK?

    It is current affairs that really show the differences between the ABC and the commercial stations. Apart from, as talked about in the speech nine's Sunday program, the commercial current affairs programs rarely deal intelligently with topically issues of the day, instead simply go into tabloid sensationalism.

    The hilarious show "Frontline", a satire based around the production of a fictional commercial nightly current affairs program. This show worked so well because the real current affairs programs were already nearly a farce.

    The ABC current affairs shows, from the nightly indepth review of current events of "the 7:30 report" and "lateline", to the documentary style indepth look at one issue by "Four Corners" the current affairs shows are just incompareable to the commercial crap like "a current affair" which I find unbearable to watch.

    As another an aside. I live in a country town in Australia. The ABC youth radio station triple J is an excellent service, providing both interesting non mainstream music from Australia and overseas. It is a godsend when compared to the crap the commercial radio stations play, as well as doing a lot to push Australian music.

    Anyway I think The ABC provides an excellent service for the tax dollars spent on it. But can it maintain their standards with anymore budget cuts? I hope so.
  • True, the media business is enourmous and pumps out a lot of sterile crap. However, just because lots of people are willing to pay for commoditised snippets of information, and lots of companies will provide that information, the market for quality journalism is no smaller. You just have to know where to look.

    Niches exist, but they're far more prevalent in markets where the audience has a lot of money. ("Why The Free Market is Not a Democracy," point 1.) Look at the tremendous number of phonebook-sized New Economy magazines -- Business 2.0, Wired, Industry Standard, etc., etc. Then look at the flimsy page count and non-glossy paper of a little lefty magazine like The Nation [] -- that's not just a circulation question. It's also a question of who the readership is and how much disposable income they have. DeBeers isn't knocking down The Nation's doors to buy ads for diamonds in the next issue.

    There's a lot of valuable content that has nothing to do with mindlessly buying shit. Which is the fundamental flaw with ad-supported journalism.

  • If the author of this lecture were employed as a journalist by the ABC (which I assume is Australian equivalent of BBC), he can have little hope of keeping his job once the new head of the ABC reads it! Within this piece, he accuses the new head of ABC of being entirely unqualified to make any decisions about its journalism, yet making sweeping changes regarding journalism in that organization. It certainly can't be an attempt at propaganda, assuming his goal is either to keep his job, or influence the new director (of the ABC)) regarding his programme (note the British spelling! (-8 ) for journalism by his organisation.

    One point the speaker failed to make, btw, is that the Internet (esp. the Web) allows all connected persons, throughout the planet, essentially to become reporters. My own hope is that text-based Internet media (such as this forum) will benefit from an enormous growth in ubiquitous reporting -- once educational institutions (or more likely, teachers) realize youngsters need to learn to report accurately much as their grandparents needed to learn to write decent business letters... We have seen this only a couple times so far, and generally only with regard to video coverage: the Rodney King video is the prime example, of course.

  • Same thing is true in the newspaper (the web versions of most newspapers make this very clear). Even most of the editorial pages are just national columns.

    As someone who works for a large metropolitan newspaper, I can tell you that this is true to a certain extent, but not because the papers are owned by large corporations. Those columns are usually syndicated, by the same companies that syndicate the comics (Universal Feature Syndicate, Tribune Media, etc.).

    Our editorial page is strictly done in-house (although it's not very good anyway IMHO). But it has to share a page with the Letters to the Editor. The op-ed (opposite the editorials) page is a combination of in-house columns, freelance opinion pieces, and syndicated columns (Molly Ivins and George Will, among others).

    I also wouldn't blame the journalists for the poor state of newspapers. The assigning editors make all of the decisions about what gets run.

    Zardoz has spoken!
  • The emergence of the Independent Media Centers is really re-defining not only what we mean by journalism, but also more specifically online journalism. A Slashdot format is one where a small group of people hype themselves and their website and eventually sell it to a larger corporate interest which (arguably) influences the stories reported. The Independent Media Center [] model builds on traditions in anarchist self-organization, and so far has been the most democratic journalism that USA has seen in recent decades.

    Working class and community-centered journalism is almost totally extinct. In a country where there were thousands of union-sponsored and community-organized newspapers, all that is left are a few fledgling papers in a few cities. Corporatization and illegal union smashing took care of the working class movement to provide working class news and discussion.

    The model for IMC is: 1) a website which allows anonymous, self-publishing of audio, video, images, hyperlinks or text, 2) a counterpart, organized in some kind of collective method (there are a million different methods from organic to consensus, etc), that meets face-to-face and plans editorial changes (i.e. what stories are on the homepage), organizes print versions, organizes co-operation with pirate radio and other independent media sources.

    Our hits are through the roof, and the goal is that within a year or so, many people will be looking to democratic news sources instead of corporate news sources. At least a distinction should be made. The idea of objective journalism outside of scientific publications seems to be a quaint throwback or corporate PR. The idea is that other voices and other biases can be heard through the onslaught of corporate BS.

    Your Vote Doesn't Count If They Don't Count It []
  • IMC uses nearly all GPL'ed software (although there is a debate between FreeBSD vs. Linux on our production servers). Anyway, after posting the above message on the IMC's, I figured this is Slashdot, so I would post a general plea to wealthy free software-oriented companies:

    IMC's are desperately in need of webservers! We have a few servers that are taking all of the load of dozens of cities around the world. When the Prague protests occurred, we were all in IRC trying to patch things up, keep Postgres alive, etc. If we could get a few more boxes to distribute the workload, or even BANDWIDTH!, it would make life a lot easier and help the project along greatly.

    If you can help out, please drop Ryan an email at

  • Some shows are preceded with "the following program is sponsored in part by...", but not all of them. There are no pledge drives. The majority of the programming is Canadian content, natch. CBC stole the show from NBC during the Olympics in some places because CBC was actually carrying live coverage. That, and CBC generally has a reputation of having sports broadcasters who really know what they're talking about. I watch extremely little TV myself, but when I do it's almost always CBC (Hockey Night in Canada or the Royal Canadian Air Farce).
  • What is your opinion of them using their editorial power to lobby for more money?

    In the UK, the BBC does not carry commercials, but recently had a large public advertising campaign (delivered via themselves, so it was free), which was essentially an enourmous lobbying effort for an increased licence fee. This struck me as unethical to say the least. An irresponsible use of their undeniable influence on members of the public.

  • by Goonie ( 8651 ) <> on Saturday November 11, 2000 @05:57AM (#630819) Homepage
    I think the ABC does a pretty good job with a comparatively tiny budget (even per capita funded much less than the Beeb). Its current affairs is far, far better than anything the commercials do (with the sole exception of the "Sunday" program), and it does the *only* serious radio current affairs.

    It has a national youth radio station ( which not only broadcasts on the net, it plays a wider selection of music than anything you're likely to find on commercial radio anywhere. While the drama department has suffered with the funding cuts, most of the best drama Australia has produced has initially been shown on the ABC. Its coverage of rural issues, particularly on radio, is far more comprehensive than the largely Sydney-based commercial broadcasters.

    One criticism that it consistently receives is that of political bias, particularly from the conservative parties, and they are using it as an excuse to cut funding. Like all such accusations, it has some basis in truth, but not nearly as much as the bleating would imply. While it gives both sides of politics a hard time when in office, its the issues that it pushes and the attitudes that it presents are usually that of the inner-city tertiary-educated elite who, particularly on social issues, are far more liberal than the government and the outer-suburban and rural voters it works very hard to attract.

    However, I think the ABC does a very good job for the money and I'm quite happy that my taxes are spent on it. In fact, I'd like it to receive *more* funding so it can resume producing more drama and resume a real shortwave service to the world.

  • by nakaduct ( 43954 ) on Saturday November 11, 2000 @02:03AM (#630820)
    the BBC is so damned good that I happily pay my licence fee.
    State-funded broacasting seems a common remnant of the British empire. The CBC (C=="Canadian") is very good; it's easy to grow complacent and decide it sucks, until you talk to Americans who know someone who has it and rave about how great it is.

    It carries ads, so it's state-subsidised rather than state-funded. And it's expected to break even.

    This is a good mix: they still have commercial sensibilities, but when faced with: "we will lose money on this {program|series|segment}, but it's exceptionally {insightful|informative|funny}", they can make the right decision. Giant publicly-held conglomerates cannot.


  • by nihilogos ( 87025 ) on Saturday November 11, 2000 @01:29AM (#630821)
    This predicted future predicts that news publishers, both online and print, will no longer research their own stories but instead refer to stories published on other news sites and papers. This is the model made famous by popular online news site Slashdot where articles almost invariably contain links to Wired, ZDNet, CNN and others. (Jon Katz articles notwithstanding.)

    Naturally this brings up the age old problem of the chicken and the egg, and has indeed attracted much attention from cosmologists who deem the puzzle "Central to the essence of every bootstrap theory of the universe."
  • by grumling ( 94709 ) on Saturday November 11, 2000 @03:48AM (#630822) Homepage
    Back in the late 80's, the FCC began to relax most of the TV ownership rules. Most of the rest of the world's governments (at least in the first world) began to do the same thing. This led to massive consolidation of television, at first across multiple markets, and finally, in the same markets (chances are, most of the radio stations in your area, if you live in the US, are owned by Clear Channel Communications or that other one). This leads to "corporate" content. No one really wants to take much risk. It is much easier to predict revenue (budget) if you already know that year over year changes are going to be minimal, and you aren't going to upset anyone.

    The really scary part is that the big media companies, like NBC and ABC (in the US) are owned by even bigger companies. When was the last time you saw any negitive (or any other) story about GE on NBC? You didn't. In fact, the only time I've ever seen any aknowledgement of GE's ownership of NBC was years ago on Letterman, when he tried to visit GE's home office.

    Another bad thing about consentration of ownership is that there is little insentive to have localized content made available. In the US, if you watch your local newscast with a stopwatch, you will find that only about 5 minutes of the newscast is actually devoted to local news (this is not counting sports and weather, which aren't really hard journalism, and are mostly there to get ratings. After all, everyone is effected by the weather). Same thing is true in the newspaper (the web versions of most newspapers make this very clear). Even most of the editorial pages are just national columns. This is known in the corporate takeover world as synergy, and is a very distrubing trend.

    Now, everyone knows that owning a TV license is a license to print money, so stations are bought and sold all the time, mostly on VC. Except that now we have media saturation in Cable and independent stations (and Blockbuster), and now we see that there's been a clear decline in viewship over the past 10 years.

    How are you going to get your message out in this world? Two ways make sense: Attempt to be like Wal-Mart or McDonalds, that is, not the best, but not offensive either. Bland, predictable, expected. The other method is to be so over the top that you get a major reaction (if it bleeds it leads). This was the first method - the Action News theory - that worked well in the early 80's and led to a real decline in the inner city (white folks wouldn't go there since there' so much crime, gangs got attention and even praise (gangsta rap!) from "The Media" and the money went away). However, you can only shock people for so long before they get used to it. Jerry Springer is a good example of this. The first time you see it, you think "my god, this is like when Rome fell." Then you get into it. Later, you start to pity the people who actually think this show is good, and finally, you are ready for the next shocker, but the media can't seem to keep up.

    The thing that is much harder is to be bland without appearing to be marketing. It is getting better all the time, and I think one of the defining moments in marketing is this year's Presidential "election." I'm still trying to figure out if there's any difference at all between these two. It is like the parties decided to hold a bunch of focus groups to define the party platform. No mention of hot buttons, such as killin' or stealin' (or smokin' and drinkin'), since that won't play well with the folks back home. If there was any real journalism in this election, it never made it out of the newsroom (and Matt Drudge is not real journalism, BTW).

    I guess what I'm trying to say is that:

    1) yes, this guy is right. Journalism is in very poor shape right now.

    2)the fix is not going to happen with the current group of journalists, who are part of the problem.

    3) The Internet will make it possible to make journalism a hobby, much like open source software has made it (in theory) a hobby to write software in your spare time.

  • by rich22 ( 156003 ) on Saturday November 11, 2000 @01:32AM (#630823) Journal
    As a voting citizen of the state of Florida, I can personally testify that the vast information networks we often pride ourselves on can be of harm to journalistic integrity. Too many journalists exposed to incomplete/inaccurate information has caused a fiasco, which would not have occurred 30 years ago. Without modern communication technology piping instant "feedback" to ratings-hungry journalists, perhaps a more conservative approach to covering the election would have eliminated the sensationalism and better presented the facts. Technology should be used to enhance our knowledge of truth, not to make a story.
  • by ideut ( 240078 ) on Saturday November 11, 2000 @01:27AM (#630824)
    The article begins by berating the way that "The news business used to be a craft, but now it has turned into a manufacturing operation". The authour makes a distinction between "commercial" journalism and "serious" journalism. He seems to think that serious journalism is incapable of self-financing, and must be funded as though it were a charity. However, he manages to come up with several examples of privately run quality journalism, not least the wonderful Economist.

    I would accuse him of being too easily distracted. True, the media business is enourmous and pumps out a lot of sterile crap. However, just because lots of people are willing to pay for commoditised snippets of information, and lots of companies will provide that information, the market for quality journalism is no smaller. You just have to know where to look.

    The authour is worried that it is hard to turn a profit from modern serious journalism because everybody expects information to be free. Well, printed media has relied on advertising and tie-in promotions (rather than cover price) for a while now anyway.

    Ultimately, though, the authour is trying to protect his job. ABC is funded by the ozzie government. ABC's budget is currently being reviewed. This article is a piece of propoganda trying to protect ABC's budget. Much as I hate the idea of state funded broadcasting, the BBC is so damned good that I happily pay my licence fee. What do ozzies think of their state media?

"I prefer the blunted cudgels of the followers of the Serpent God." -- Sean Doran the Younger