dimarts, 9 de març del 2010

Who's willing to work for free?

"Writing in 1960, the great press critic A. J. Liebling, noting the squeeze on his profession, fretted about the emergence of the one-newspaper town:

The worst of it is that each newspaper disappearing below the horizon carries with it, if not a point of view, at least a potential emplacement for one. A city with one newspaper, or with a morning and an evening paper under one ownership, is like a man with one eye, and often the eye is glass.

Liebling, who died in 1963, was spared the looming prospect of the no-newspaper town. There is, of course, the Internet, which he could not have imagined. Its enthusiasts rightly point out that digital media are in nearly every way superior to paper and ink, and represent, in essence, an upgrade in technology. But those giant presses and barrels of ink and fleets of delivery trucks were never what made newspapers invaluable. What gave newspapers their value was the mission and promise of journalism—the hope that someone was getting paid to wade into the daily tide of manure, sort through its deliberate lies and cunning half-truths, and tell a story straight.
Anyone with a keyboard or cell phone can report, analyze, and pull a chair up to the national debate. If freedom of the press belongs to those who own one, today that is everyone. The city with one eye (glass or no) has been replaced by the city with a million eyes. This is wonderful on many levels, and is why the tyrants of the world are struggling, with only partial success, to control the new medium. But while the Internet may be the ultimate democratic tool, it is also demolishing the business model that long sustained news­papers and TV’s network-news organizations. Unless someone quickly finds a way to make disinterested reporting pay, to compensate the modern equivalent of the ink-stained wretch (the carpal-tunnel curmudgeon?), the Web may yet bury Liebling’s cherished profession.
Who, after all, is willing to work for free?"

Mark Bowden, The Atlantic. The story behind the story.