Thursday, January 14, 2010

Free Press Kills Press Freedom

Almost an Onion headline, eh?

The newspaper publishing game was always, well, almost always, a business venture (maybe "Publick Occurrences Both Forreign and Domestick"* doesn't quite fit the profile), and as such I always contended that the only people who really had freedom of the press were the ones who owned the presses.

That aside, newspapers have always been provided practically for free. The dime or quarter we pay for the paper is really just payment to the person who delivers it, and at that it's a pretty good deal.

The functions that generate the paper itself, the reporters and editors, printers, tree growers, get paid by the advertisers. I should say, "got" paid by the advertisers.

So, in essence, we got our newspapers for free, and as we all know, there is no such thing as a free lunch, the demise of the newspaper is the result of the migration of advertising to other media.

One could argue that the Internet, to which much of the advertising is migrating, will become the "press," and since it ultimately is farther reaching, we will have greater press freedom. Unfortunately, the professional staffs of the newspapers are being replaced by the citizen staff of the 'net.

Will a mass medium of this sort rise to the occasion, or will the "facts" that get reported on the Internet, and more importantly the ones that win approval and shape public doctrine, be chosen based on their merit or their appeal?

*So this is what one gets for looking things up: Wikipedia reference for Publick Occurrences Both Forreign and Domestick: (double colons? what a concept; triple if you count the html tag (or should I say "tagge"?)

That was the first "newspaper" published in the American Colonies, well, more or less, and if you follow enough of the links you will discover, which I am surprised I did not know, the fourth page of the paper was left blank for citizen-written articles. So, well, maybe the ideas of a Popular Press and a Free Press shouldn't be separated.