real/brilliant: Why the Web Will Be Better Than Print

by Trish

Print is disappearing fast. It’s a hard transition to make for folks used to their newspapers with coffee and their endless stream of monthly magazines while getting their hair done.

Folks, it’s only going to get better!

The web is not going to kill journalism or writing or business ethics. Sure, there will be cases where things don’t go well. If you’ll remember, there have been many cases in print where things did not go well. The learning curve for the web is steep too. We still haven’t figured it out. There is no textbook that can stand the test of more than four months. Things change that quickly.

I’m not sure those who think investigative journalism will die because print is dying have it quite right. Sounds like they have had a few glasses of the print media Koolaid. (These print folks are crying foul because they are scared to death of the web! They have to change, they have to adapt, they have to evolve. Survival of the fittest! If they can’t, too bad. Our own culture doesn’t give a rip. So they have to make up outlandish charges because they are too afraid to learn something new or accept something new.)

If anyone believes this, they are operating from two gross misconceptions. The first misconception is that newspapers have a long tradition of investigative journalism. That’s simply not true. According to statistics reported by the Investigative Reporters and Editors group, investigative journalism is a new concept. Most newspapers actually spend more money on their comics page than on investigative reporting. Investigative reporting is actually the lovechild of new media approaches. It will translate well to the web, and will actually flourish there.

The second misconception is that folks think that news is there solely for the public good. Um, no. News is there to make money. Media is a business. Sure, there are some that report news for the public good, but much of what has come about in print journalism and will simply be passed on to web journalism is the fact that the companies put up news to make money. They have a set amount of content pages supported by a set amount of ad pages. The web won’t be any different, but there will be a lot more room for content. People aren’t looking at newspaper ads, they are clicking on Google ads. This translates to revenue. Once a print pub gets going online, there’s no stopping it. Talk about massive media sites. We haven’t seen nothing yet.

I actually see investigative journalism more and more online than in print. Wikipedia runs tens of thousands of entries. You can’t just put up an entry about something and it sticks. Thousands of people will come by and fix your entry’s errors. That’s peer review to the max. Blogs report news (sure it’s through the blogger’s eyes) and they get comments, often ranging in the hundreds, from people who simply don’t agree with them. If that’s not peer review, I don’t know what is.

Plus, if your company has a bad rep online for providing terrible customer service, you aren’t going to get away with it, no matter how much money you pour into a PR firm’s coffers. Gone are the days of journalists trying to write a true story and their papers shutting them down because “you might upset Company X, who gives us advertising.” I see less and less of that influence coming into play. I see more and more of a very social media-centric reading base who does not just take the media’s word for it. We see it all the time already, on Youtube, on Twitter, on blogs, on Facebook, everywhere you look, web users call reckless media to task. That’s what the print media and media establishment is afraid of. They don’t want to have to be so accountable. They’re afraid. The web scares the <ahem> out of ’em. I don’t like people who make up stuff because of their fears.

Again, there are folks who do want to be accountable and who are not afraid. It takes all kinds to make it interesting.

If you are one of those who has read articles recently or heard on the news that investigative journalism is dying, you need to go online and hear some of the online folks dismissing that thesis (a whole heck of a lot of ’em are).

And the print media who accuse the web media of having no ethics needs to go look in the mirror.


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