What’s next for newspapers?

I’m now back in NZ, getting used to the time zone differences 🙂

Over recent months I’ve read an increasing number of stories, articles and comments on the future of newspapers that I’ve been storing away to make comment on, as I see the whole debate as being indicative of the paradigm shift in the “knowledge economy” we’re all a part of. As a blogger this thinking has been percolating in my mind for some years now as i think about how I access the news, how I filter it, engage with it and report it.

The interactive map above is part of a recent initiative of the Independent newspaper in the UK, titled “what’s next for newspapers?” Prompted by the impact of the global recession on the newspaper industry, the Independent is using the opportunity to prompt a richer debate about impact of digital technologies on the newspaper industry, the implications of these changes for the newspaper industry, for journalism, and for society. The team at the Independent say that…

The aim with interactive collaborative maps of this kind is to weave together all of the salient issues, positions and arguments dispersed through the community into a single rich, transparent structure – in which each idea and argument is expressed just once – so that it’s possible to explore all perspectives quickly and gain a good sense of the scope and perceived merits of the different arguments

I see a great topic here for high school media studies students, or social studies classes for that matter. And it’s great to see the Independent actively using the debategraph tool as a means of engaging people in this debate – I’m a fan of this tool as I love the way it dynamically represents the changing perspectives in the debate, and enables large scale participation.

The Independent article refers to the thoughts of Clay Shirky, who’s post on Newspapers and thinking the unthinkable got me thinking about this a lot more just a few weeks ago. Shirky traverses the issues of ownership, control, quality, economics and impact of digital technologies in his article – focusing in on his argument that…

Society doesn’t need newspapers. What we need is journalism. For a century, the imperatives to strengthen journalism and to strengthen newspapers have been so tightly wound as to be indistinguishable. That’s been a fine accident to have, but when that accident stops, as it is stopping before our eyes, we’re going to need lots of other ways to strengthen journalism instead.

Not everyone agree that newspapers are under threat, however.  John Hartigan, CEO of News Limited in Australia claims that the future of newspapers is bright. He is critical of the traditional ‘knowing a little about a lot‘ approach of newspapers to reporting the news, and sees the future involving teams of highly educated people with specialist knowledge providing more in depth news and analysis. He is not a fan at all of the notion of “citizen journalists” and dismisses claims often made by bloggers that theirs is a fresh, more democratic medium, by saying “Amateur journalism trivialises and corrupts serious debate“.

If you’re looking for some perspectives and themes to fire up your students’ thinking, then I’d recommend Ryan Scholin’s post on 10 obvious things about the future of newspapers (it would also pay to read his original post from 2007 to get an idea of what has changed.)

I’d love to hear stories of classes that participate in this debate, and the usefulness of the debategraph map as a focus for this.

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