The reasons for the death of Newspapers and Network TV are many. But one thing is for sure - that more and more people don't read papers or watch Network news. The excuse given by those who work in both is mainly that they have put all the good stuff on the web for free. They go on to lament the fact that the public are losing their connection to Quality news.
I think that this is self serving rubbish that is simply not born out by the facts. Are the newspapers and is Network TV really the quality source of journalism that they all claim?
When I saw this chart the other day - my little grey cells began to fire big time. What might it mean that NPR's audience may have increased by nearly 100% over the last 10 years and newspapers decreased by 11.4% and network news by 28%? These are staggering differences and surely demand an explanation?
Here is my hypothesis. It is my observation that most papers and most of the Network News organizations have given up offering context and have made News into a disconnected stream of soundbites and headlines. NPR's rise has been driven by a focus on providing people with the context and the deep understanding of what is going on.
I think that it is this POV - to find the context - that has pulled NPR and Pub Radio away from the herd. I think that there is a hunger in America to understand and that Public Radio and TV are on track to meet that hunger.
Yes the web is important - NPR's podcasts reach a new unserved audience that is 15 years younger than the radio. Yes most of PBS news is now online and free. But many papers and the networks have most of their news content online too.
In complex times CONTEXT is surely what has made the difference?
Now I see even more exciting moves as CPB realizes that if the resources of Public Radio and TV News and Opinion are aggregated and made even easier to obtain that the lead in audience will widen further. This is now being worked on.
In 2010 Pub Media will go beyond offering context as content but will find the best ways of aggregating this and making it very easy to access and to participate with.
As they get closer to being able to do this I think that the economics will come.
In the next post in this short series, I will talk about the last leg of this stool - the participation aspect of the work. I will look at how the voice of the citizen can be brought in and how Pub Media is planning to transcend news itself and help citizens return to the great tradition of America - of citizens solving their own problems locally.
Many of my readers rightly urge me to do better than offer up a diagnosis of our problems. Show me what to do - many ask. Many also ask me to be less blunt - not to miss the point but to be more respectful of the way that we are and by being respectful invite more into the conversation.
Here is a film by Rebecca Hosking, a farmer's daughter, that is I think the model for what you are asking for. She gently but firmly shows the problem and then goes out and finds the pathway to the future. I finished the film thinking that I had indeed seen the future A future that was was going to be hard to get to because it violates many of our preconceived ideas about farming, but also a future that any of us could start to work on today, if we could overcome our mental resistance.
This is a deeply hopeful and yet also a realistic film. Rebecca uses her POV of coming from the pragmatic tradition of farming. So as a farmer's daughter she both asks the hard questions and also finds a way forward that makes practical sense. She speaks as a peer to all those that struggle to make a living farming today and she speaks as pragmatist to all who seek to find a way to the future. Shares with us her own voyage of discovery and you can see her own plans develop for her own farm. It's all about what she can do and so all about what you and I can do. The film is not a call to government action, nor is it a diatribe against the current system. It is all about what can you and I do.
It's her practical nature combined with her yearning for a better way that is such a combination.
Quiet spoken, a listener, she is also quite remarkably beautiful. There is a radiance about her that draws you in. Some of this is her art.
For before she returned to take over her father's farm, she was a naturalist and film maker. Her ability to tell a story and to select the right image and the right moment is exquisite. She never over tells. Her light hand is quite brilliant. You will "see", feel and know after this film.
She is the Planet Money of the Oil/Food issue.
If you have 50 minutes, please see this film. It may change your life.
We are surely entering a new reality? The discussion of the "Deathwalk" of papers and TV Stations has until now been academic but now hardly a week passes when a city or town loses one or the other.
What will happen in your town when there is no more "Official News"?
Of course I don't know but it may be fun to speculate. A good way to speculate I think is to think of nature. What does nature do when an over mature system crashes? When say a big tree falls or there is a forest fire?
Nature has a iron-clad set of rules for the death of an over mature system. The rule seems to be - the small and the fast growing fills in the space. In phase 2, the trees that can get height fast and shade out the rest come next. In phase 3 the slow growing larger trees push by aggregate and then dominate. And then the cycle continues.
So if this pattern is reliable then this is what will happen when your community loses its Big News.
If I am right and that nature does offer us a model, then the Aggregation phase is where the future lies. The people that can lead the aggregation will "win". If we can do this in the Public sector then the Public will win.
So where will this happen in your community?
In the US I think that St Louis offers us a strong hint. Journalists, Public TV and Radio can get together to offer a home for the rest of the local blogging ecosystem. They can also pull in national and global content and offer up stories from their own place. I think that the current talks between CPB, NPR and PBS are also very encouraging.
But what about Canada? Would the local music station be the aggregator? How easy/hard would it be for a few bloggers to do this - hard I think. We don't have the emergent local system that the US has. This tells me that the urgency in the US to "see" their total public system for what it is - the future - is extreme.
It's all there to win or lose.
Eichmann was a quiet and brilliant bureaucrat. To master his brief, he learned Yiddish and was tutored about Jewish culture. He was an exceptional administrator. He kept the "trains running" while Germany was collapsing.
He did more than follow orders he brought his full abilities to bear on the "project". For that is how he saw all of this. It was his job and he was a pro. As a bureaucrat, he had absolved himself from the human reality of what he did.
He represents the great flaw in us - when we lose ourselves in the "project", we become in effect sociopaths.
The Corporate state is the "Project" for many ordinary people - who could not imagine that they are doing anything wrong. They are skilled people working on their "project". The apogee of this project is our current approach to the financial sector and to its chieftains.
The "German Project" affected millions of people. The current project affects every human being.
Will we awake in time?
The picture above is the Larry Summers/Tim Geithner of the time. General McClellan was THE inside man. He was the type of "Insider" General that knew everyone - that would be President when the war was over. He was the consummate insider.
But George and all his ilk - the insider generals - all failed. They did not understand the new reality of war - that those who understood the power of the industrial age - the new idea of the time - and those that had the will to use this new knowledge were the ONLY people who could win the war.
The union won.
Lincoln had a few years to get serious about seeing that the Insiders would lose the war.
President Obama has a few weeks.
If he stays with Larry and Tim - he is finished and all hope is lost.
THE TIME OF THE INSIDER IS PAST
Only a Grant and a Sherman can do the job.
Obama's presidency and America stands in the balance in the next few weeks. By June most Americans will understand - will see - and will know - that they have been exploited by the Insiders. The anger we witness now will be nothing to what will be expressed.
President Obama has to be like Lincoln. He has to fire Summers and Geithner and he has to find the skilled outsider who understands what has happened - has had nothing to do with how we got here and who owes the insiders nothing.
President Obama has to be Lincoln and not Tsar Alexander or Louis XVIth - the stakes are as high.