When the News of the World newspaper shut down recently it led me to wonder if it was not another fatal blow to the print media. What led the journalists to such extremes of method in their news gathering? Certainly one of the main motives was greed as it is in nearly all scandals of this sort, but in order to push the editorial staff of such a large and successful newspaper into taking such risks there must have been some other sort of pressure on them to perform.
In the world of newspapers the most valuable scrap of news is the scoop, the exclusive report that has been found by some intrepid newshound after the slog of exhaustive research and investigations, or so we have been led to believe. The truth though is somewhat different. The majority of what is printed in the daily newspapers comes straight from the news agencies and so it is from the internet. By the time that we are reading the news that is printed in the morning papers it is already old news online. In fact the breaking news aspect to most main stream media has diminished greatly as in every major world news event all of the most up to date information was on the web first.
Anyone who is interested in really finding out about some current event isn’t going to run up to the corner shop for a copy of The Age, they’re almost certainly going to google it. Daily television news programs are hardly the place to go in depth into the real stories of the day, no one wants to confront the truth as they eat their corn flakes in the morning, so they re-hash the top few stories and focus more and more on advertising and human interest/feel good stories. The evening news bulletin is little more than a roundup of the day’s top events that have come off of the APP or Reuters sites with a schmaltzy dose of local/human interest thrown in to go with your sausages and mash at night.
The truth of the decline of the print media can be seen in the continuing slide of the circulation numbers for all of the major daily papers in Australia. Since 1991 the per capita consumption of newspapers has fallen from just under 16% to just fewer than 11%, a loss of one third of its reading audience. People just aren’t buying newspapers like they used to. Can the print media in general survive a blow to its credibility like the one delivered by the News of the World collapse. Are the days of the newspaper scoop history, gone the way of the telegraph, the town crier and the lamp lighter?
Is other print media due to suffer a similar fate, slowly dying of anemic circulation figures until they drop off into history with parchment scrolls and clay tablets? Just as the introduction of inexpensive printing methods brought about an expansion of the press media the immediacy of the internet has caused a boom in news and current affairs sites on the web but how will we sift through the nonsense and fake reports without newspapers and magazines that do this now and in a world driven by the need to be first at all costs can we really trust the media’s version of events in any case?