Heralding a New Dawn-Out with the Old, In with the New(s)

Are newspapers becoming extinct?

Are newspapers facing extinction?

For many years my father routinely perused a freshly printed copy of Fairfax’s Sydney Morning Herald with his breakfast. Recently the traditional broad sheet has been replaced by the Sydney Morning Herald App on a shiny new iPad. Unwittingly, my father is playing an integral part in the journalism revolution. As we immerse ourselves deeper in the ocean of digital content, legacy media such as newspapers have been forced to reconsider traditional methods of delivery to readers.

Journalism is considered a profession in crisis. The internet is contesting the status of newspapers as the major institution of journalism by offering greater efficiency in meeting demand and supply.  Rupert Murdoch clarified this fundamental shift in a tweet in August 2012. “Simple equation: free, open, uncontrollable internet versus shackled newspapers equals no newspapers.”  Advancements in technology have also led to the rise of citizen journalism. Unrestrained by authority and capturing news as it happens with an assortment of common recording devices, citizen journalists are “filling the void that mainstream media cannot fully cover”, as Nadine Jurrat explores in Mapping Digital Media. Providing ubiquitous connectivity to global reports via a constant stream of online content, the evolution of this new brand of journalists has led to the rise of collective intelligence as everyday citizens are able to create, collaborate and contribute to the ever-deepening pool of information available on the internet.

Alan Kohler summarises this shift to online content delivery in the ABC report below, explaining that readers are moving to engage more with digital information.

However, as Kohler points out, this change does not herald the extinction of journalism in the future so much as NEWSPAPERS.  Journalism is simply evolving to suit the demands of a migratory audience. This means a dramatic modification in how traditional media organisations deliver their content. By exploring the Sydney Morning Herald’s Know No Boundaries Site, this process of evolution is clear. Digital subscriptions, blogs and more effective applications for mobile and tablet devices are all on the cards for SMH in 2013, clearly displaying the attempt of a traditional journalistic medium to change with the times.  The recent change to tabloid format in late 2012 was also made in response to “the flight of paying readers and advertisers from the paper to other, so-far free, digital sources of news.”

What will be interesting to see is how these platforms fund their work in a traditionally free digital environment.  Perhaps the evolution of ‘subscription based models’, like the one proposed by SMH will lead to further loss of readership and eventually the ultimate extinction of such media. Only time will tell.

Picture sourced from: http://www.cartoonstock.com/directory/o/online_newspaper.asp 

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Thirsty? Try Some Concentrated Media Ownership!

By Graeme MacKay, The Hamilton Spectator

Habitual breakfast connoisseurs generally greet a new day with a bowl of cereal, a coffee and a good newspaper to read. A metal spoon poised to enter the bowl of enticing cornflakes and a metaphorical spoon prepared to mentally ingest the daily bulletins.

Our taste in media, just like our taste in culinary delights, is subjective. In relation to the daily news, we engage with and ‘digest’ the edition whose perspective resonates most closely with our own. We are all aware that different news outlets can present alternative views on the same story. Certain media follow certain lines of bias in order to meet their political, social, or personal agendas.

This diversity of views is essential within a democratic society for consumers to make informed judgements on content. And this is why it matters who controls the media, or more pertinently- HOW MANY control it. As Elizabeth Hart outlined in her article Media Ownership “Whoever owns the media owns the message”. Increasingly it seems media ownership is becoming more concentrated. In Australia 11 out of 12 capital city daily papers are owned by either Rupert Murdoch’s News Corporation of John Fairfax’s Holdings (E. Hart, 2008). The critical issue with this bottleneck trend of ownership is the limited perspective presented to consumers as the underlying message conveyed through media of the same owner is often the same.

The ‘bottleneck’ trend of media ownership in Australia

However an interesting platform has recently developed to combat the bias of this global phenomenon. The American website Allsides places stories from alternative newspapers side by side in order to expose bias and provide a “well-rounded view of complex stories.” This website cleverly alerts consumers to the issue of concentrated media ownership in news outlets by revealing their underlying agendas in a comparative environment.

Clearly in order to maintain a healthy democratic media environment, it is important to retain diversity of media ownership, to ensure a range of perspectives and a choice of opinions. I mean who wants to be eating cornflakes every day?

Pictures sourced from:

http://freer.com/bits/2010/10/17/the-dangers-of-media-ownership-concentration/

http://www.mapleleafweb.com/political-cartoons/growing-concentration-media-ownership-canada