What Kind of News Does the Net Need?Brad has very helpfully crystallized a vague thought that I've had for some time. I was recently discussing the NY Times' paywall with a friend, and I mentioned that I haven't yet gotten around to subscribing, even though I'm a rather voracious consumer of "news" and have been a regular Times reader for about 20 years. So naturally I was asked if I miss it, and why I don't subscribe, and what I read instead. And I realized that I haven't really missed it yet, and that that is because my intake of traditional articles in newspapers has been declining for a couple of years now.
I really am not sure.
Look at http://washingtonpost.com/ right now. The lead economic story is Robert Samuelson, "Europe’s recovery at the abyss." Where is the value added in the article?
The net-based news ecology would do absolutely fine without it: "Greece could tip Europe into crisis" is not news, is not analysis, is not insight.
The second story is by Alan Fram covering a speech by Cass Sunstein at the American Enterprise Institute. There is nothing in it that you couldn't have gotten from a one-pager from Sunstein's office.
...For my issues, I think Bloomberg is a very valuable input into the net-based news ecology. I think that Associated Press is valuable. There certainly is an important role for Ezra Kleins and Steven Pearlsteins and aggregators and curators to play.
But otherwise? The value added is not coming from the "regular" reporting-based news-gathering structure. it produces: "Obama proposes revamping regulations to aid businesses", "Greece could tip Europe into crisis", "‘Insourcing’ effort still under fire despite Pentagon’s gradual retreat from plan", and "As the host of November’s summit in Hawaii, the Obama administration is trying mightily to restore the relevance of Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation forum."
Until newspapers figure out how they have gotten themselves into a box in which, as one senior journalist told me, "on the average day I learn more from Ezra Klein's weblog than from the entire national news staff of the New York Times," they will have no idea how to climb out of the crate into which they have crawled.
Take the wire services and basic market reports (e.g. from Reuters, the AP, Bloomberg, Marketwatch, etc.), add a large helping of commentary and analysis from a number of blogs (including several operated by professional news organizations and newspapers), and I get a far more interesting, insightful, and useful flow of daily information than the major online newspapers generally provide. So I suddenly realize that I completely agree with Brad (and I'm sure that this has been very obvious to lots of other people for a long time as well): newspapers have a much bigger problem than simply managing the transition from paper to web-based distribution -- traditional newspaper writing is simply becoming increasingly irrelevant.