Friday, 6 July 2012
It's The End Of The World As We Know It
There's been so much in the media recently in Australia about the demise of the print newspaper that it's hard not to feel like the end is nigh, or at least the end of publishing as we know it. Now that everything is moving online an era is drawing to a close. I hope the traditional newspaper lives to fight another day, but even it does, the sharks are circling in the water, and you really have to wonder if the version of the paper that does survive this onslaught will be worth reading.
I'm referring to the announcement a couple of weeks ago of massive job cuts at Fairfax, and the possibility that it will be taken over by Gina Rinehart - a mining magnate who is richer than God and Oprah, and who has no concept of editorial independence. The Sydney Morning Herald (soon to be the Sydney Mining Herald) has been an integral part of my weekend ritual for the last twenty years, and I'm pretty devastated about this attack on it. I'm not surprised that it's reached this point because there have been financial problems and cut backs going on for some time. Although it's still the best newspaper in Australia IMO, the quality has declined noticeably over recent years. There are less stories with substance, more infotainment pieces, and an increase in typos and grammatical errors.
This trend towards infotainment is what scares me the most about the shift to online media. Many of the headline stories are just puff pieces in online newspapers, which are competing with all the other news sites out there for traffic. With the loss of so many jobs in journalism, the standards can only slip further, and more and more of our "news" will be written by 21 year olds with a tenuous grasp of basic grammar and spelling, and no understanding of current affairs.
At a time when people need to be more informed than ever about what is happening, we will instead be cocooned in a bubble of celebrity gossip and "feel good" stories about kittens. This suits the Gina Rineharts of the world perfectly, because the last thing they want is for people to get all up in arms about that pesky little thing called climate change. When they own the media, they will be able to rape and plunder the environment with impunity because the public watchdog will have been bludgeoned into unconsciousness, if not killed outright. I know there are other sources of information out there besides mainstream newspapers and my hope is that people will grow tired of the garbage and seek out alternative points of view.
Is this mourning over the demise of quality journalism a little premature, or should we be seriously concerned about what is happening in the media?