RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL – Not to date myself but I graduated university in 1994 and after not finding a job at a TV station I stumbled into an “interactive multimedia production studio” – which meant CD Roms. In 1995 the “Internet” became the new fad, and I spent the next ten years drinking the kool-aid and riding the lightning, working in internet marketing, building web sites and all things related, changing the world as we knew it.
Needless to say I’ve always been a big fan of the “Inter-web”, but not all that glitters is gold, and the same way video killed the radio star, the internet may kill real, investigative journalism, if something doesn’t change.
First off, a disclaimer, I have never paid for my Online news, I read The New York Times until I hit the “paywall”, then I surf somewhere else if I’m curious. I do subscribe to home delivery of the Rio newspaper in Print, O Globo – so I can flip through the pages and look at the pictures – which I think is about US$35 per month.
I was jarred last week though, as there were two sales of iconic newspapers in the U.S. for shockingly low prices. The New York Times bought The Boston Globe for US$1.1 billion in 1993, but had to sell it for US$70 million, less than one-tenth of what it was purchased for.
Next it was announced that The Washington Post (remember ‘Watergate’) is being sold for $250 million to the founder of Amazon.com ironically. A report (in The New York Times) explained that their daily circulation peaked in 1993 with 832,332 average daily (Print) subscribers, but by March, the newspaper’s daily circulation had dropped to 474,767.
The article also reports that as of 2012, the newsroom, which once had more than 1,000 employees, had fewer than 640 on staff. Now as an “Internet-guy”, in the past my sense was the bloated operations of yesteryear need digital-era streamlining to cut the fat and reach optimal efficiency… but now I’m having doubts.
I’m having my doubts because now I own and operate an Internet-based news company, and believe me, there is a very low body-fat ratio. As I edit articles each day and week, like any trade or craft, not everyone is suited to write news. What this trend means in the news industry is cutting costs; for reporters, for editors, for research, for real investigative journalism.
The Rio Times is a community news company, our mission is not to delve into massive corruption and uncover political wrongs and the evil that men do. We count on companies like The Washington Post, The Boston Globe and The New York Times (and maybe O Globo) to do that.
If the news industry can only afford to pay university internship stipends and bare-bone-freelance rates, what is going to happen to the ability for true in-depth reporting? I worry now that the culture of ‘all free content’ on the Internet is leading society into a new dark age of self-censorship.
Wikimedia is amazing, but it is no substitute. Humanity’s ability to rise above ignorance and shed the yoke of institutional oppression is dependent on free speech, well,… it’s not exactly free is it?