a dilemma for the future media

Many arguments are put forward as disjunctions. Either A or B, where both A and B lead to the same conclusion.

Here is an argument of this form that relates to the media in this country. It is based on the assumption that distribution costs for media content are becoming alarmingly small.

1. Either you monetize distribution of your news content or you do not.

2. If you monetize distribution of your news content, then your news sucks because you have to cater to people with money. In other words, news has to become entertainment to pay for itself (see, all cable news), and the content can no longer have any independence.

3. you do not monetize your news content, in which case you cannot afford to actually find out any news. You are merely a commentator, a blogger (like me) who just has opinions, but clearly, no news.

Conclusion: there cannot be news in this country.

Is there a third way? Yes. I think news organizations will have to become charities or non-profit organizations. Sure, they’ll have to rely on donations then, but theoretically that will come from people who are interested in the real value of news, not entertainment. In the future, there will be stable organizations who do real research and can pay people to do it. They may have gain the respect of the public….yea right.

More interestingly, just as there are humanitarian disasters, there will be crises of public information demand (when a scandal breaks or a war starts or a bill is being debate, think healthcare), and we may even see donations stream into news organizations as they have streamed in to help Haiti. People may think, “healthcare is a really big issue, we should put some money into the news so that we can figure out how it works.” News organizations will become more like public think tanks, receiving money to research day to day news, but also getting infusions of cash to delve into complex issues of public interest. Of course, as you’re probably thinking, this is pure fantasy, and it clearly is, but the point is that it needs to become a reality if we are going to have any worthwhile information for democracy to make decisions with. Also, for the record, some organizations of the type I am describing are slowly coming into existence. This is a really good thing.


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