An interesting article came to light today. Actually, it might not be that interesting. It is merely the consequence of a series of bad decisions by several people. The interesting part is that it was not a local thing. This is possibly one of the few times where several decisions on a global scale escalated one another into the move away from what at times now is laughingly referred to as ‘journalism’. The Guardian (at https://www.theguardian.com/media/2017/apr/15/journalism-faces-a-crisis-worldwide-we-might-be-entering-a-new-dark-age) gives us “Australia’s two largest legacy media organisations recently announced big cuts to their journalistic staff“, up to 120 editorial positions are being wiped from the list of employment options. Apparently there was also the mention “Both announcements were accompanied by corporate spin voicing a continuing commitment to quality journalism. Nobody in the know believes it“. It is followed by the mention that this is partly thanks to Donald Trump. The truth is nowhere near Trump, the entire Trump bashing is merely putting in the spotlight what had been known for some time. There is however a side that is very much true and it is escalating into a movement that will change even further over the next 20 months. The quote “technology has torn apart the two businesses – advertising and news – that used to be bound together by the physical artefact of the newspaper. Once, those who wanted to find a house, a job or a car had to buy a newspaper to read the classifieds. Now, it is cheaper and more efficient to advertise and search online“, it will change even further and the bulk of the audience is not up to speed yet, but within a year they will be.
For me the messed up situation was visible for a long time. No matter what excuse the people of News give, whatever Fairfax claims, it does not matter. Consider the following: ‘Will you pay $2.4 for filtered news?‘ This question is a lot harder than you realise, because the definition of ‘filter’ is not a given, but it is at the heart of the matter. Let’s take a few parts to give you a little perspective.
2010, 2011, we are given all kinds of news regarding Grexit, a weird dirty dance where some players are ‘threatening’ to expel Greece from the Euro. We see the news for weeks, yet no one seems to know what they are doing and the papers are absent in mentioning a legal work that was published in December 2009 by Phoebus Athanassiou that basically inform us that expulsion is not an option, you can only voluntarily leave the EEC and the Euro. The paper (at https://lawlordtobe.files.wordpress.com/2015/07/ecblwp10.pdf) is a paper that comes from the European Central Bank, so why were the newspapers in the dark? Why were the readers not properly informed on this? All the value of a newspaper thrown into the circular filing system, value lost forever.
2011 Operation Weeting. This would be the beginning of a decline that escalated on a global scale. Most people took notice to some degree regarding the News of the World, the phone hacking scandal and the celebrities involved, yet when the world learned of the hacked phones of murdered schoolgirl Milly Dowler, relatives of deceased British soldiers and victims of the 7 July 2005 London bombings the world did not react in kindness, those involved had crossed a line that a very large group found too unacceptable. Many went from ‘Ah well, celebrities!‘ towards ‘WTF!‘ and ‘Could this happen here?‘ two very different trains of thought, the Leveson inquiry that followed was followed by many and a lot of them not in the UK, when the conclusions were revealed we saw a group of editors shouting murder, fascism and on how the freedom of the press was in danger whilst none of them showed any level of accountability, this was one of the clearest coffin nails. There is more and part is not their fault. In this the politicians also have a blame in the matter. As the actual press (the Guardian, the Times, the Independent) were trying to continue to be the responsible ones (to the larger degree), they were placed next to tabloids, magazines proclaiming to be newspapers whilst limiting themselves to ‘Kardashian puts ample bust on display’ (Daily Mail). A lot could have been prevented by making these tabloids VAT (read GST) enabled. Giving the tabloids no longer a 0% VAT options would have levelled the bar a little (read: truly, just a little) against the actual newspapers in the UK. It could have spurred a larger European change. It would not have ended better for the newspapers, yet some of them would have had more time to change their product and business approach.
2012 Sony, this is the one that really got me mad. Two weeks before the PS4 was launched, Sony pulled a fast one. I discussed this (at https://lawlordtobe.com/2014/08/12/no-press-no-facebook/), in my article ‘No Press, No Facebook!‘, in this case the Guardian was pretty much the only newspaper that gave it any decent attention. A change that would affect 30 million gamers and the news remained absent. So where is the value of my newspaper now? It was “7.1. You must not resell either Disc-based Software or Software Downloads, unless expressly authorised by us and, if the publisher is another company, additionally by the publisher“, it was followed by a weak statement by a board member of Sony, but the papers and other media were quick to ignore it and none had the critical statement: ‘A terms of service is a legal document, a statement by a board member of Sony can be countermanded with a mere memo‘, the press remained absent! It all sizzled down the track as the TPP never came into effect, but the damage was done and now it was damage that hits the press as well as they were too busy with circulation numbers and facilitating to your advertisers, because Sony PS4 advertisement money is what all newspapers desperately needed, so compromising 30 million gamers (that’s Europe, with 5 million in the UK) was likely not a big deal to them.
These are a few of a growing list of issues where the newspapers are in a bad place, but to some extent they got themselves there. Margaret Simons gives us “Today, just about anyone with an internet connection and a social media account has the capacity to publish news and views to the world. This is new in human history” near the end. She is correct here, but she also forgets to mention that reach and quality is still and issue. I have, with my blog, a mere reach of 5-6 thousand readers, which is next to nothing. I believe that I offer a quality view, but that is in the eyes of the beholder. However, I am only a blogger. When she mentions ‘the capacity to publish news‘ is not entirely correct. Some are falling in front of the news because of location, yet these people are for the most not journalists and that is the kicker. Pieces that are truly journalistic remains pieces of value, the people are just having too many question marks. In addition, the people have lost a massive amount of quality of life, and the price of a newspaper subscription whilst news online tends to be free and the cost of living is going up is also a factor we cannot deny. Yet in equal measure I have worked in firms where they all had 2-5 newspapers on a daily base, most (read: nearly all of them) have stopped doing that, cutting costs did that to some degree.
So as we see the announced age of darkness coming into the newspaper business, we cannot fault their hardship, even though they themselves are partially to blame, yet in equal measure, it seems to me that quality journalism is becoming a nuisance in several European nations. They can hide some of the bad news in sponsored morning shows, there they can spin to some degree, but in a newspaper, and it is all about the relevant information, a side too many players are currently too uncomfortable with. Its fair enough that some journalists are trying to get around that part, but as too much actual news is given to us freely at a moment’s notice, many agree that there is too much speculation in some news, like ‘North Korea may be capable of firing a missile loaded with sarin nerve gas toward Japan‘ (source: CBC), yet in equal measure the newspapers have not been the utterly reliable source of news either and on both sides of the publications, there seems to be a growing issue with ethics to consider and that is even before we add tabloids like Daily Mail, Mail Online, and whatever Murdoch gets to publish. The newspapers became a multidimensional mess. I personally think it is because they waited too long to embrace the online community and that is before the new changes hits them over the next two years. By proclaiming themselves as non-accountable and considering themselves as too important, they marketed themselves straight into the insolvency mode. Yet, that is merely my view on all this.