Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Newspapers Dying - Blogs Taking Over

Chrystal Ocean over at Challenging The Commonplace brought to my attention the plight of Canwest Global Communications. I live in the Greater Toronto Area where there are 4 daily newspapers: The Globe & Mail, The Sun, The Star and The National Post. Newspaper wars are constant in this part of the country as publications fight for readers. My daily choice is The Sun, but I've noticed it shrinking of late, which isn't surprising in this digital age.

I'm 42, which puts me at an interesting nexus. I'm a bit of a dinosaur I guess in that I still like reading 'the paper'. I also get news and commentary on line, but I've grown up with a daily newspaper as part of my routine. I suspect that most 20 and even 30 somethings though aren't as accustomed to reading an actual paper, not in this information age of ours. I actually don't get much 'news' from print journalism though. With the Internet, TV and radio the stories being reported are already old by the time I drop my 50 cents in the box.

With all this competition it isn't surprising to see newspapers suffering. In the U.S. The Tribune Company, owner of he Chicago Tribune and Los Angeles Times, has filed for bankruptcy. Others like the Detroit News and Detroit Free Press are cutting costs by eliminating home delivery. Its a trend I think we'll see continuing, and I for one think its extremely healthy.

One of the biggest problems with our "Free Press" is that it long ago ceased being "Free". I don't mean free in the sense of no cost, but free in the sense of free from influence. Because mainstream media is so often subject to corporate ownership I don't think the public at large is being well served by an unbiased media. You can't buy a newspaper in New Brunswick that isn't owned by the Irving family for example.
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Into the void steps blogs, opinion and commentary that doesn't have to first pass through corporate filters. Americans upset that there isn't the same reporting going on now with the war in Iraq as there was during the Vietnam War can find bloggers willing to talk about the things our corporate masters would rather we ignore. Countries like Canada and the U.S. are still democracies of course, but that doesn't mean Corporate news outlets should be able to frame debates and only report on stories that fit the views of their owners.

Would Barack Obama have been able to win the Democratic Party's nomination without the power of the Internet? Its a question worth pondering, I for one don't think so. Hillary Clinton was the candidate of choice from the start, but by using utilities like FaceBook Obama was able to steal momentum and carry right through to a triumph at the polls in November.

I won't be crying if more newspapers start to fold, I actually think it will make for healthier and more open debate about the issues affecting us. Corporate Canada/America will just have to get used to the new rules of the game.

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