Chris Hedges did.
The Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist, author, and tech-pessimist, recently gave a lecture at the University of Mississippi about the decline of newspapers. Which, in his view, inevitably leads to the death of journalism, literacy, and even democracy. You can read or watch the lecture on the University’s blog.
Talk about a slippery slope. Yes, the medium, business model, and definition of “news” is changing rapidly, but I fail to see how this signals the journalistic apocalypse.
Some of his views seem to be based on misconceptions about the internet. Here are a few:
“No internet site will ever bring in the kind of revenue that allows a large newspaper to field a newsroom staff”
I don’t understand why this is an impossibility in his mind.
“The internet is not configured for reading, and like television, it shapes and can distort news content.”
The last time I checked, the web was a pretty good format for reading, and as for distorting news, print media could never do that, right?
“Bloggers, unlike most established reporters, rarely admit errors. They cannot get fired. Facts, for many bloggers, are interchangeable with opinions.”
Seriously? Stereotyping bloggers like this is not only insulting to bloggers and blog readers, but shows a serious lack of faith in people’s ability to distinguish quality content for themselves.
Here’s what I think. Instead of reaching for the panic button, newspapers need to evaluate WHY they’re failing and use their resources to focus on SOLUTIONS. If newspapers don’t, someone else will. High quality journalists will end up working for whoever figures out how to monazite high quality journalism in the new-media age, simple as that. Educated people will always demand quality news.
That said, I think what Hedges is really expressing is a deeper lack of faith in our ability to teach future generations to recognize and value high quality journalism in a world where information is free and opinion runs wild. That aspect is a bit more troubling, but if we are smart, we’ll continue to invest in education and avoid the slide into Idiocracy.