Saturday, February 20, 2010

The Ups and Downs of Internet Journalism--An Upcoming Event with McChesney and Nichols

Fifteen years ago, there were only a few ways for me to access out-of-town newspapers. One of them was on trips, when I would need to stop every hour or so for a drink break, a bathroom break, and a copy of the local paper. For a time, Schwartz carried out-of-town Sunday papers, and I would rotate through the cities. And of course there was the read-the-paper-that-was-used-as-packing-material option.

That memory came swirling back to life as I unpacked our order this week from Fred and Friends. The packing material for our Mon key and Russian doll key caps, and dead body mystery pad (with bloody pen) was an old copy of the New Bedford Standard Times. Of course the paper itself is called The Standard Times (no city) and the website is "South Coast Today." Each iteration becomes less newsy and more generic. That said, I was able to read the high school sports schedule and the obituarties and an article that said the new Jodi Picoult movie was critically mixed, but the fans liked it. Oops, the paper was from last July.

The new Picoult comes out March 2nd and is called House Rules--a kid with Asperger's Syndrome is accused of murder.

Of course I don't need to wait for an order from Fred to get the latest on what's happening in New Bedford. And this information explosion has played havoc with traditional newspapers, and media in general. Today we got a notice that our store copy of the Saturday Journal Sentinel is being replaced by an early Sunday version. I have no idea what that even means for the paper--I would assume this means my home delivery edition is also gone, but I don't really know, as they haven't posted info on their web site. I'll find out soon enough, but in this age, we demand answers now, now, now! (I'm not necessarily happy with this change in our programming, by the way.)

Hey, what do you know? We're having an upcoming event that explores some of these questions.

It's for Robert McChesney and John Nichols next Thursday, February 25th. Their new book, The Death and Life of American Journalism, contemplates the grave state of the traditional news industry and what's popping up to take its place. The authors argue (and I hope I state this correctly) that what the Founding Fathers hoped for in protecting the freedom of the press was co-opted by commercial interests, and now that this model is failing, what is coming to the fore is actually closer in spirit to the press of old. (Feel free to correct this in a comment).

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