There’s always more and more bad news about the news, which is the theme of a new Brookings Institute essay by Robert Kaiser.
“The Bad News About the News” is available here, but brace yourself. It’s a long, well researched look at the decline of newspapers. The juiciest bits come from a memo Kaiser wrote to his bosses in 1992, which you can read here. Some highlights:
Design the electronic classifieds now. Figure out how to capture and organize the digital computer information that we already create for each day’s classifieds into a user-friendly data bank. Explore software alternatives. Figure out how this could be launched. Make sure all would-be competitors know what we’re doing. But reserve the right to postpone implementation until a moment when we’re confident we’ll make more money (or deter a competitor) by launching the electronic product.As part of the same effort, explore the feasibility of a Post electronic Yellow Pages for the Washington Area. Why not seek to become the dominant provider of electronic advertising and information in our region?
News as we know it is at risk. So is democratic governance, which depends on an effective watchdog news media. Both have been undermined by changes in society wrought by digital technologies—among the most powerful forces ever unleashed by mankind. We have barely begun the Digital Age, and there is no point in trying to predict just where it will take us. News certainly has a future, but what that will be is unclear. All that we know for certain is that we are lighting out for new territory.
It’s not easy stuff, but you should add the essay to your weekend reading list and you can discuss it on Twitter using #BrookingsEssay.