I’m a big fan of NBC’s Chris Matthews Show. I catch HardBall on MSNBC during the week whenever possible and I TiVo The Chris Matthews Show on Sunday. I’m home doing some writing today so I got to watch the live broadcast just now. It is a must-see for anyone interested in the future of the news and the way in which electronic media will play a role.
A few notes I took during the program. (Taken on my iPhone, by the way!)
San Francisco and Boston may soon be without their own daily paper, and others are in a continuing free fall. There is plenty of news available on the net, but it comes with its own pitfalls.
First, there is the question of fact-checking.
Just because it is on the net it doesn’t mean it is true. (Duh!) The problem is, to have real reporters and real editors who take the time to fact-check requires paid employees. Are we so used to getting our news media for free on the net that we simply won’t buy it?
Bob Woodward doesn’t think so. He sees a new model emerging soon (but not yet) in which people will hunger for good reporting and will pay to get it. This is, he said, a crisis but, once the business model is worked out, it may yield something rich and fill of depth. Who is going to do the serious investigative reporting, he was asked… “Somebody will come along and do it,” he replied. (Nice optimism!)
The publisher of the Daily Beast, an online newspaper, responded that the net makes fact-checking easier not harder, so that aspect is not a HUGE issue. (I just “subscribed”… it looks interesting!)
Other panelists, however, argued that newspapers are essential for understanding complicated stories and digging into a story with the kind of depth that doesn’t and won’t happen on the net.
Next there is the problem of targeting.
The net makes it simple to get only the news you are interested in. This stands in direct opposition to the way many read the paper… what the panelists called “grazing and roaming”. “Grazing and roaming” (love the term!) refers to reading about things outside your specific interest just because they are there. Without “grazing and roaming” our field of interest and knowledge becomes increasingly narrow and we, potentially, less and less informed.
I found this interesting since it mirrors my own experience. Before Amazon I would go the Barnes and Noble two or three times a year and walk through the store grabbing any and every book that caught my eye. The result was that I read stuff I would NEVER have touched otherwise. Now that I get my books from Amazon, I do far less of that. Without “grazing and roaming” my field of book-buying has narrowed significantly.
Throughout the program Woodward kept repeating his belief that, while the new model that allows for good, factual journalism and a business model to support it has not yet emerged, it will. At the end of the day, he said, while the dead-tree editions may not exist, brands like the New York Times, The Washington Post and the Wall Street Journal, while going through a major change, will continue to do great journalism.
As someone who rarely reads paper editions of newspapers or books these days I found the conversation riveting. It was definitely worth watching.
So the questions of the day are these…
How do you get your news and information? Are you satisfied with the depth of the reporting? What model would you recommend in this digital age? Would you pay if it were the only way to get good, deep content?