The Internet Is No Substitute for the Dying Newspaper Industry
Chris Hedges, a former war corespondent, says the internet and the trend toward of citizen journalism does not have the resources that newspapers had to do primary source reporting, which is a process that is ongoing, expensive and time-consuming. Anything less is no match against financial and political interests that do not wish to recive the public scrutiny of their actions.
The decline of newspapers is not about the replacement of the antiquated technology of news print with the lightning speed of the Internet. It does not signal an inevitable and salutary change. It is not a form of progress. The decline of newspapers is about the rise of the corporate state, the loss of civic and public responsibility on the part of much of our entrepreneurial class and the intellectual poverty of our post-literate world, a world where information is conveyed primarily through rapidly moving images rather than print.
All these forces have combined to strangle newspapers. And the blood on the floor, this year alone, is disheartening. Some 6,000 journalists nationwide have lost their jobs, news pages are being radically cut back and newspaper stocks have tumbled. Advertising revenues are dramatically falling off with many papers seeing double-digit drops
When the traditional news organizations go belly up we will lose a vast well of expertise and information. Our democracy will suffer a body blow. Not that many will notice. The average time a reader of The New York Times spends with the printed paper is about 45 minutes. The average time a viewer spends on The New York Times Web site is about seven minutes. There is a difference between browsing and reading. And the Web is built for browsing rather than for reading. When there is a long piece on the Internet, most of us have to print it out to get through it.
The rise of our corporate state has done the most, however, to decimate traditional news-gathering. Time Warner, Disney, Rupert Murdoch's News Corp., General Electric and Viacom control nearly everything we read, watch, hear and ultimately think. And news that does not make a profit, as well as divert viewers from civic participation and challenging the status quo, is not worth pursuing. This is why the networks have shut down their foreign bureaus. This is why cable newscasts, with their chatty anchors
This is why newspapers like the Los Angeles Times and Chicago Tribune are being ruthlessly cannibalized by corporate trolls like Sam Zell, turned into empty husks that focus increasingly on boutique journalism. Corporations are not in the business of news. They hate news, real news. Real news is not convenient to their rape of the nation. Real news makes people ask questions. They prefer to close the prying eyes of reporters. They prefer to transform news into another form of mindless amusement and entertainment.
A democracy survives when its citizens have access to trustworthy and impartial sources of information, when it can discern lies from truth. Take this away and a democracy dies. The fusion of news and entertainment, the rise of a class of celebrity journalists on television who define reporting by their access to the famous and the powerful, the retreat by many readers into the ideological ghettos of the Internet and the ruthless drive by corporations to destroy the traditional news business are leaving us deaf, dumb and blind.