Thursday, August 06, 2009

Even journalists have mortgages

'Mr Murdoch said he was "satisfied" that the company could produce "significant revenues from the sale of digital delivery of newspaper content".

"The digital revolution has opened many new and inexpensive methods of distribution," he added.

"But it has not made content free. Accordingly, we intend to charge for all our news websites. I believe that if we are successful, we will be followed by other media.

"Quality journalism is not cheap, and an industry that gives away its content is simply cannibalising its ability to produce good reporting," he said.'

Many bloggers are firmly of the opinion that journalists should not be paid for their work. Its a weird thing to believe, especially as many of the same bloggers are loud boosters of the capitalist system, free enterprise and doing business. Work hard, get paid accordingly, apart from if you are a journalist.

Huge scorn has been heaped on the New York Times and Associated Press for charging people for reading their material. I imagine News International will get the same treatment. Its sad, because Mr Murdoch is right- quality journalism is not cheap. Even some very profound bloggers seem to think that what they do is journalism. But its not true. Like most jobs, if you are doing it right, there is not time for a second job. Most journalists don't have time to be pundits. And unless you are one of the tiny minority of bloggers who make a living at blogging, you have a day job. Which means you don't have time for a whole other career as a journalist.

Simple facts, but ones which seem beyond the ken of many bloggers. Journalism is time consuming, revolves around lots of fiddly details, involves travelling very often, there's lots of logistical crap to deal with, and then the writing up of notes into finished pieces. It may even involve having to do pieces to camera if you're a TV journo. Amateur bloggers are just not going to get all that done. You might be able to squeeze a tiny bit of journalism around your day job, but you'd end up with no time for anything else.

So the demise of lots of newspapers and news organisations is not fantastic. Our need for the product that journalists provide has not changed. The requirement for the scrutiny of public officials and the myriad of other things journalists report on, sport, science, business, culture and all the other things still remains. Whether we read that stuff on bits of paper or from pixels on a screen is completely immaterial. Just as the people who write songs should get paid when their songs are played, people who write news stories should get paid when they are read. Work should be rewarded with payment.

Everything else is just noise. Last time I checked, Associated Press employ around 10,000 journalists. If AP goes bust, who will pay those 10,000 journalists? More importantly, how will I ever find out what is going on where those journalists report from if AP don't pay him to tell me? The Huffington Post? InstaPundit? The Drudge Report? Yeah, I don't think so.

The first people on the world wide web had some very hippyish ideals- some very 1980's ideals. They didn't like business, that was selling out man. Everything would be done for the love of it by cool and hip and eccentric people, for free. The web would be the place where 'Imagine' wasn't just a song, but a way of life.

And then everybody else got on the web. And then it became just like the rest of the world, but with much more porn. And guess what? People wanted to earn money from websites. People created websites just for selling stuff. And that whole hippy thing disappeared as quickly as a bongful of best Afghan.

But for some reason, there are still vestiges of that long-gone era- like insisting that news websites shouldn't charge for people to read the news. In reality, there are only two options: enormous quantities of intrusive advertising on every page of news; or paid subscriptions for news without the intrusive ads. I know which one I'll be taking...

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