Best newspaper in the world? Maybe…
Last night we had dinner with our friend Gary Younge.
He is a columnist for The Guardian, the British newspaper. A paper many believe to be among the world’s best.
Gary noted that although Britain is the size of Michigan, it has one of the most vibrant and varied newspaper environments in the world. Each day The Times, The Sun, The Daily Telegraph, The Independent, The Daily Mirror, The Daily Mail, The Guardian and many more papers are produced, purchased and read.
It is an incredibly media rich environment, and as a result, it is also an environment alive in public discourse; and a very knowledgeable and well read population.
In the US, the newspaper business used to be like this. Once, there were 17 daily newspapers in New York. Today, most cities have but one paper, and for anyone who travels, the depressing comic book USA TODAY often appears under the door. (Best investigative paragraph).
In the 1950s, television eviscerated newspapers.
They took the audiences and they took the advertisers.
But they didn’t reproduce the quality of the journalism, despite their reach.
They couldn’t do it because the process of making television, particularly television news, which has such a short shelf life, was so complex and expensive that they were lucky to get on the air. And what they did get on the air was little more than an intellectually stunted shadow of what newspapers had been able to produce.
Newspapers had been able to produce so much richness because the process of making a newspaper, the process of reporting, was so much simpler and cheaper to do. Here is the notebook, there is the door. Be back by 6.
Well, now, suddenly, video has become as simple and cheap to produce as text. Final Cut Pro is a word processing software for images. And pretty much anyone can learn to do this, and do it well.
The ball and chain that crippled television journalism since its inception – the need for the cameraman, the editor, the producer, the van… all that is now gone. History. Finished.
Video reporting can be as simple, direct and inexpensive as newspaper reporting.
So we are at a moment of great potential.
We can recoup the aggressive, vibrant and powerful dialogue that a world of many newspapers and many voices once gave us – except now it is going to be in video, as well as text.
Who will embark on this next generation of journalism? TV stations? I doubt it They are too mired in old and expensive ways of working. Newspapers? Perhaps…. they have a visceral feel for good journalism. Or perhaps it will come from some as yet undiscovered internet enterprise. An eBay for journalists? Maybe.
But one thing is for sure. As the complexity and cost of the act of making video driven journalism continues to drop, it opens the door to a whole new world of multiple voices and a return to a city of 17 daily papers – but this time, in video.