Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Old Dog, New Trick

Newspapers are up against it in the Participation Economy, the Internet-powered revolution of joining in, taking part, sharing and joy. For the modern consumer, the idea of reading newspapers full of day-old news hand-picked by faceless editors seems, well, very early 90’s.

These days we get to be our own editor-in-chief, selecting the bits of news, opinion and analysis that best suit our tastes, politics or predilections. The news business still hasn’t worked out a way to make this work financially, but I suspect that will change soon. Free is not sustainable. Walter Isaacson, former editor of Time, proposed one possible approach to the issue of payment here.

There may be some spark in the old format yet. On the first day of the climate talks in Copenhagen, 56 newspapers in 20 languages pulled off a dramatic and high-impact stunt. They simultaneously published a front-page editorial calling for action on climate change. Papers included The Guardian (which got the ball rolling), the Toronto Star, the Jakarta Globe, Le Monde, The Brunei Times, la Repubblica and The Cambodia Daily.

This degree of collaboration across geographical and political boundaries carries a high degree of difficulty. Whatever you think about the editorial itself, the scale and audacity of the maneuver is impressive. The old-school newspaper editorial is long past its heyday, but -- on this occasion at least -- some creative thinking and collaboration breathed some life back into the art-form.


Anonymous said...

This was a great initiative by the Guardian. It's a shame the US and Australia are so poorly represented. Apparently the SMH and The Age pulled out at the last minute because of the promotion of Tony Abbott to Opposition Leader. Doesn't make much sense - should have been even MORE of a reason to take part!

Elle Fagan said...

My son is a newspaper executive, and I worked for papers, a little bit, too. He helped found one of the major online papers, 15 years ago.

Maybe I was just "being Mother", but the work they do must hit the spot, in the Global imagination, must be fast, accurate, reliable, and much,much more.

And yet it's been free.

"The workman is worthy of his hire." may be an old Bible adage, but it is still a foundation block of the human psyche.

Right now, the papers are doing just as you suggest - making it real for today's public desires, and yet more sane for those who do all the work.

The story scenario you quote shows that, to resolve its issues, the papers will be exulting in the Global way of it all, NOT fighting it, any longer, to evolve into an entity that works - today and tomorrow. An evolution that involves all sides of the production, from new ways of interacting with the readership, new styles on the part of the writers and editors and new ways with advertising, and constant updates at the "guts" - production.

It's very exciting and I am in awe of my son and his team.

The Fourth Estate is doing a fancy dance and worthy of our attention.

All I hoped for was restoration of the use of the word "children" rather than "kids" - an insult, except at sports and picnic times.
And correction of the scary use of "that" , rather than "who" when referring to people.

The power of the word can get pretty insidious , when corruptions are taken up in the main, rather than cleaned up.

But it's December 13th - all I really want to say is "Happy Holiday !"