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News & the Net: Two Steps Backwards …

Local citizen journalism evangelist, Bronwen Clune, often describes the news media corporations and mechanisms as ‘control media’.  While this is certainly a striking expression, and no doubt fair when thinking about the likes of Rupert Murdoch, I’ve wondered if it’s at times a bit of a harsh brush with which to paint the news media in general .  However, the Associated Press (AP) seems to be doing out its way to take the idea of control media literally, which has not been embraced by the interwebs at large; AP recently described a system of Digital Rights Management (DRM) to police the uses of its news content online.  Their explanatory graphic and been, how shall we say, reinterpreted by the public they’re expecting to pay for AP’s services:


[Source for the top half of the image: AP’s Press Release “Associated Press to build news registry to protect content”; source for the full image: “What the AP really meant to convey”. Via Boing Boing]

At the same time, Chris Anderson on the promotion trail for his new book Free, has been enjoying himself by being as provocative as possible in interviews (conducted, oddly enough, by journalists).  For example:

In the past, the media was a full-time job. But maybe the media is going to be a part-time job. Maybe media won’t be a job at all, but will instead be a hobby. There is no law that says that industries have to remain at any given size. Once there were blacksmiths and there were steelworkers, but things change. The question is not should journalists have jobs. The question is can people get the information they want, the way they want it? The marketplace will sort this out. If we continue to add value to the Internet we’ll find a way to make money. But not everything we do has to make money.

While change is definitely in the air, suggesting that journalism is a redundant profession is going too far.  We need good journalism; we need people who are willing to take risks and invest huge amounts of time into investigative reporting; and they need to be paid.  I’m not suggesting the status quo even means anything any more, and the last few years have definitely forced the news industry to decide whether it’s just an entertainment business or something more, but amongst all of that I think we need to try and figure out sustainable models that support journalism (but not sensationalism).  I think unpaid citizen journalism and random acts of journalism by netizens will definitely play a significant role in the news media landscape that’s developing, but I don’t every think the culmination of citizen journalism will ever be enough by itself.  I can’t live without the ABC or SBS, and I’m delighted they’re mainly government funded, but I know that’s not the only answer.  And I also realise that answers aren’t readily available yet.  We should, however, be looking for them.  While the news industry is definitely having a rough time, and the future is uncertain, I also don’t think AP’s approach hard core ‘lock it all up’ approach, or Anderson’s dismissive suggestion the all journalists need to get real jobs and write news as a hobby, are really helping the debate.  Not one little bit.

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