This morning’s Media Guardian was a belter. It really was. Loads of great comment, useful insight and candid opinions.
It is of course the month of predictions. What’s the next big thing? Obesity, if last year is anything to go by. Heh.
But seriously, it’s one thing having willy-nilly comments featuring slightly educated guesses, and another thing all together to bring together some very progressive minds.
Step forward, Clay Shirky. His predictions are hardly groundbreaking, but he puts them in terms that doesn’t belittle anyone. Often, pro-print people dismiss online too aggressively. Likewise, pro-onliners lay into print folk as if they were mentally backwards for not wanting to blog their balls off. What Shirky manages is to hit a very logical middle ground. All parties should be reading this and thinking: “Yeah… that makes a lot of sense.”
The great misfortune of newspapers in this era is that they were such a good idea for such a long time that people felt the newspaper business model was part of a deep truth about the world, rather than just the way things happened to be. It’s like the fall of communism, where a lot of the eastern European satellite states had an easier time because there were still people alive who remembered life before the Soviet Union – nobody in Russia remembered it. Newspaper people are like Russians, in a way.
An hour or so ago, Martin Stabe tweeted an age old newspaper problem:
Spent cramped flight wrestling with FT, WSJ, IHT and Die Welt. Broadsheet print is a rubbish format.
Somehow in the midst of tradition, we’ve forgotten that the reason for broadsheets being broadsheet was simply that it was easier — when printing presses had to be painstakingly put together with big old plates — to print a few massive pages, rather than a lot of smaller pages.
I’d assume the broadsheet size was deemed as big as it could possibly go before it became unreadable.
And yet, papers like the Telegraph still insist on broadsheet in the name of tradition and, unbelievably, journalistic value.
What Shirky is saying, is that newspapers are important to the democratic world (and even the un-democratic world, I guess) because of the journalism that’s in them. The fact it’s on paper means nothing at all.
In the same way that Town Criers became obsolete when printing came along, newspapers are now obsolete because the internet has come along. What exactly are newspaper publishers fighting? Give up already. Become web publishers — and then work on producing quality journalism once again.
Sooner or later there’ll be an invention that will bring print-style journalism back to our hands. Foldable LCD screens, whatever. But until then, the web is where we all are — so publishers must put every resource they have into making their site absolutely bloody brilliant. Because if they don’t, they won’t survive when the print/LCD resurgence happens.
So. Don’t be proud of your newspaper. Be proud of your journalism. If you don’t acknowledge that clear fact then there is no future for your print edition — then there’ll be nowhere to put your journalism anymore.
Ask yourself, which is the greater tradition to protect: newspapers… or democracy?