New technology and social media are radically changing the relationship between people and the press around the world. In the U.S. and Europe, newspapers and other outlets are adapting to a new landscape of free content and real-time reporting. But in emerging markets, newspaper circulation is rising. Kojo explores how technological and economic forces are changing the global news industry.

Guests

  • Tom Standage Digital Editor, The Economist

Transcript

  • 13:28:27

    MR. KOJO NNAMDIWelcome back. Joining us now is Tom Standage. He's joining us from studios in London. Tom Standage is digital editor at The Economist Magazine. He wrote a special report on the future of news in this week's edition of the magazine and that's what most of our conversation is going to be about.

  • 13:28:43

    MR. KOJO NNAMDIAnd Tom Standage, I know we're supposed to be talking about that, but an announcement in London today may have a great deal to do with the future of news so, Tom Standage, I think it's fortuitous that you're joining us on this day. Thank you for joining us.

  • 13:28:54

    MR. TOM STANDAGEThank you very much for inviting me.

  • 13:28:56

    NNAMDITom, Rupert Murdoch's news corporation announced today that it's withdrawing its $12 billion bid to take over the shares that it does not already own in B-Sky-B, British Sky Broadcasting, Britain's main satellite-television broadcaster.

  • 13:29:09

    NNAMDIThat in the wake of scandals having to do with hacking into voicemails, including that of a 13 year-old girl abducted and murdered in 2002 and the murky relationships between British politicians, the press and the police. What's your analysis about where this is all going and how it's likely to affect the news business in Britain and probably much of the media in the Western world?

  • 13:29:32

    STANDAGEWell, what makes this is such an interesting and compelling story is that there are many directions it could go and it'll probably go in several of them at once. So this started off, it looked as though it was, you know, a reasonably isolated example of a newspaper that was breaking into people's voicemail boxes on their mobile phones. And they were caught doing this for a member of the royal family and a couple of journalists from The News of the World went to jail as a result.

  • 13:29:55

    STANDAGESubsequent revelations suggest this was far more widespread and so this led to the extraordinary decision by Rupert Murdoch to shut down The News of the World, which printed its last edition on Sunday. It was, in fact, Britain's best-selling newspaper. It's a weekly. It comes out on Sunday and it had about 2.5 million readers. Down from a peak of about 4.5 million, but still, you know, by some measure, the best-selling newspaper.

  • 13:30:17

    STANDAGESo why did he do this? Well, the reason is that although Rupert Murdoch owns newspaper and TV stations around the world, essentially, if you look at the profits that News Corps makes, nearly all of it comes from TV. And essentially it's a pay TV company that sort of runs newspapers as a bit of a hobby.

  • 13:30:32

    STANDAGEAnd so he was absolutely prepared to get rid of -- to kill off this newspaper, which was, you know, marginal, produced a profit some years, most of the time it didn't, in order to be able to protect his bid for B-Sky-B. This is the main British satellite broadcaster. As you mentioned, News Corp owns 40 percent of it at the moment and they wanted to buy the remaining 60.

  • 13:30:55

    STANDAGEAnd why did they want to do that? Well, because this year, it's expected to make a billion pounds, $1.6 billion dollars in profit. And that's -- that's actually about twice as much as Fox News, which is the amazingly successful, profitable channel in the U.S., made last year.

  • 13:31:10

    STANDAGESo this is an amazing, amazing cash machine, which he wants to take over and so, you know, he was very, very happy to get rid of a newspaper to do it. Unfortunately, that doesn't seem to have stopped the bleeding. This is -- I'm mixing my metaphors terribly here -- this problem is metastasizing into other parts of his empire.

  • 13:31:27

    STANDAGESo there have been allegations, swiftly denied by News International, the British bit of News Corp, that phone hacking was going on at other Murdoch papers. Meanwhile, in America, people are asking whether the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act applies here because one of the executives of News International admitted in front of a panel at the House of Commons that the paper had paid policemen for stories and that violates the FCPA, probably breaks British law as well.

  • 13:31:55

    STANDAGEAnd so that may all kick off. There's a shareholder lawsuit against the board of News Corp for not getting on top of this problem years ago because this has all been going on for years it seems and so this could go in a number of different directions.

  • 13:32:09

    STANDAGEIt's also turning into a political scandal because the Prime Minister employed a former editor of The News of The World as his main press advisor and it now transpires that hacking was going on newspaper editor's watch. So he either should have known about it or actually did know about it. So this could turn into a political crisis, it could turn into, you know, the collapse of News Corp. There are lots of ways this could go and that's what makes it so compelling.

  • 13:32:31

    NNAMDIAnd it can cross the pond in another way. I've been reading where there have been questions about whether there was possible hacking of the voicemails of people who perished in 9/11 here in the United States.

  • 13:32:42

    STANDAGEYes, well, that was the thing. When they shut the paper down last week, Rebecca Brooks, who's the head of News International in Britain, she took this astonishing decision and had to announce it to the staff and she -- even then it was someone taped -- inevitably someone taped the speech she made to the staff and leaked it.

  • 13:32:57

    STANDAGEShe said there were further revelations to come that were much worse and that in future, people would understand why they had to take this extraordinary move in shutting down the paper. And so we all sort of scratched our heads and thought, well, hang one a minute. They've, you know, they've been hacking into the voicemail of a murdered teenager and all this sort of thing. How could it get any worse?

  • 13:33:14

    STANDAGEWell, then these other revelations, or allegations, I should say, came out, that they were supposedly tried to get to the voicemail of the families and the actual victims of 9/11. They were also supposed to have tried to get into the voicemail of Prince Charles and the prime minister, yesterday -- I'm sorry, the former prime minister, Gordon Brown, accused them of trying to get into his personal bank details and of somehow nefariously getting a hold of the medical records for his son.

  • 13:33:41

    STANDAGESo it's really hard to imagine, you know, who else -- it's hard to imagine how worse -- how this could get any worse, but we keep thinking that and it does. So, yes, it really is unbelievable and I really hope that this is -- this turns out to be, you know, an isolated incident at that newspaper.

  • 13:33:57

    STANDAGEBut another way this could get worse is that it could turn out this was very widespread at lots of other newspapers as well. And there are already allegations being thrown around at other tabloid newspapers in Fleet Street, that they were up to the same sort of tricks in order to compete with The News of The World. So there are so many ways this can get bigger, this story.

  • 13:34:13

    NNAMDIOur guest is Tom Standage, digital editor at The Economist Magazine. He wrote the special report on the future of the news in this week's edition of the magazine. We've heard the bleak prognosis about the future of newspapers, the old media is dying, slowly killed by a lethal mix of economic forces and technological changes.

  • 13:34:31

    NNAMDIPeople won't pay for content anymore, we're told. Objectivity is dying. But from a global perspective, the picture's much more complicated. New technology and the Great Recession have forced Western media outlets to adapt to a new reality. Those same forces have triggered a renaissance in emerging markets like China and Brazil and places like India. With more than 70,000 different print publications, newspapers are selling more than 100 million papers a day.

  • 13:35:00

    NNAMDIIn the U.S. and Europe, newspapers and other old guard media outlets might be sick, but they're trying to adapt by creating new types of storytelling and a new way of consuming all the news. Tom Standage, you starred your special report with some interesting global contrasts between countries with booming media and countries where journalism is perceived to be in decline. You focus on India, a country where 110 million newspapers are sold daily. Tell us about that phenomenon.

  • 13:35:29

    STANDAGEYes, well, I think particularly if you're sitting in America, then the idea that the newspaper is dying is, you know, sort of something you hear a lot of and really what I wanted to point out was that America's a very special case. I mean, American newspapers have been hit harder by the rise of the Internet and the shift of readers and advertisers online than pretty much anywhere else.

  • 13:35:50

    STANDAGEBecause they were unusually dependent on advertising revenue, it made up a bigger chunk of their overall revenue. In Europe, a typical newspaper gets half its revenue from advertisers and half from subscribers. In America, it was up to over 85 percent coming from the advertisers. So when there's a recession or advertisers start to advertise online, then that really hurts you.

  • 13:36:08

    STANDAGEBut if you look at the global picture, it's much more complicated. You have, you know, bad news in North America. You have pretty bad news in Western Europe, although not quite so bad. And then, if you look at Africa, you know, African newspapers, 30 percent growth between 2005 and 2009 and at 40 percent in India, 20 percent in Brazil, 10 percent in China.

  • 13:36:31

    STANDAGESo essentially where you've got increasing rates of literacy and increasing wealth, you have more people who say, I'm going to start reading the newspaper. They want to know what's going on in the world. They want to understand politics and, you know, news more broadly because it affects their lives and they have a greater stake in the outcome as they become wealthier.

  • 13:36:49

    STANDAGESo we are seeing in the developing world actually a growing enthusiasm for newspapers. That said, inevitably, of course, these are parts of the world where you don't have a great deal of Internet access, not to the same extent as we do in Europe and America. And I think the country to watch here is Brazil.

  • 13:37:06

    STANDAGEBrazil has got a growing amount of Internet access, a lot of it broadband and the growth in newspaper circulation seems to have come screeching to a halt. So that may be, you know, it may be that Brazil is tipping over into American or Western Europe style market where newspaper circulation has reached its peak and people are going to start moving online.

  • 13:37:26

    STANDAGEAnd that will happen eventually in India, as well. It's just that, you know, Internet penetration is so much lower there and Africa as well. So for the time being, newspapers is where it's at. They're a status symbol. They show that you're literate, that you're engaged, you're educated, but eventually the Internet will catch up there as well.

  • 13:37:40

    NNAMDIIf you'd like to join this conversation, you can call us at 800-433-8850 or go to our website, kojoshow.org, ask a question or make a comment there. How has technology changed the way you access the news? Has it changed the way you also think about the mainstream or old guard media? 800-433-8850.

  • 13:38:00

    NNAMDITom Standage, between the 1830s and the early 2000s, the basic equation of the media and its relationships with the public in the Western world was relatively stable. Advertisers subsidized the news more in the U.S. than in other Western countries.

  • 13:38:14

    NNAMDINews organizations upheld what we think of as traditional standards of objectivity and quality standards and consumers got their news from a handful of mainstream trusted sources. In that context, what was the significance of 1833, September 3rd, 1833?

  • 13:38:34

    STANDAGEYes, that was the day that The New York Sun launched and it was the first of the penny-press newspapers to become really successful and that, I think, looking back was a really watershed moment because that was the birth of the mass media.

  • 13:38:45

    STANDAGEIf you look at the day before that, September the 2nd then, the newspaper that sold the most copies in the United States was The Courier and Enquirer in New York and it sold 4,500 copies a day, really not a lot of copies. And, in fact, newspapers at that time were very local things. They were very small. They were very local.

  • 13:39:04

    STANDAGEThey didn't have large readerships because how were you going to print large numbers of copies of them and how were you going to distribute them? It wasn't really possible. What The New York Sun did was it said, instead of charging $.06 for a newspaper, we're going to charge $.01. We're going to use this new thing over here called the steam press, which means we can print tens of thousands of copies a day, if we need to, and that way we can reach a much larger audience, which means advertisers will be prepared to pay us to advertise and we can use the resulting revenue to subsidize the cost.

  • 13:39:30

    STANDAGESo this was a new model where advertisers were picking up a much, much large part of the bill, in fact, the majority of the bill by the middle of the 19th century and that's how the mass media has worked ever since. That's how TV and radio work. Their advertisers would subsidize it and, in return, you would get a large audience who could access the content for free because of the advertiser subsidy.

  • 13:39:52

    STANDAGESo that was the mass media model and the Internet is just undermining that model now because, you know, when you had a relatively limited amount of bandwidth, there was only so many TV stations or radio stations you could have and so you could reach a huge proportion of the inhabitants of a particular town by placing one ad on a radio station or in a newspaper. You can't do that anymore because of this fragmentation that the Internet has caused.

  • 13:40:14

    STANDAGEAnd of course, it also undermines the advertising base business model by diverting funds elsewhere. So I think we're going back to a sort of pre-1833 world. I call it back to the coffee house, a world where media is local and social and more participatory and more partisan as well.

  • 13:40:28

    NNAMDII was about to address the more partisan part that you just mentioned because it would appear that the appearance, if you will, of mass media after 1833 is what forced media into this position of, quote/unquote, "objectivity" in order to make sure that they could maintain a wide circulation and therefore not only appeal to one specific group of people, correct?

  • 13:40:51

    STANDAGEWell, that was one of the factors. There were several factors. And, in fact, if you look at 19th century newspapers, particularly in America, they're still very partisan and you have things like, you know, the editor of one of them running for president and things like that, which would be like, you know, Glenn Beck running for president now. It would be -- it would be pretty weird.

  • 13:41:06

    STANDAGEWhat happens is that the industry starts to professionalize, that's one factor. Another factor is that as the industry consolidates and you get local news monopolies. You don't want to be too partisan because you'll alienate a large part of your audience...

  • 13:41:19

    NNAMDICorrect.

  • 13:41:19

    STANDAGE...and potentially your advertisers, too. And so there are -- there are these various pressures that -- another factor actually is the telegraph and the use of wire services. So if you're taking stories from the wire services, they have to be written a neutral way because you don't know what the political affiliation of the newspaper that will be running them is.

  • 13:41:35

    STANDAGEAnd so the -- the telegraphic very sort of impartial news style that comes from the use of telegraphs to send news also contributes to this. And so you get this move towards an objective way of doing news. And it's actually a very recent invention. We think it's the way the news has always been, but it hasn't. For most of the time that there have been any kind of formal news services, and newspapers and so on, which only goes back sort of, you know, 400 years or so, most of them have been astonishingly partisan.

  • 13:42:03

    NNAMDIWell, many people feel that today's media environment is getting too coarse, too strident and too, well, partisan, and they point out that new media allows voices at the margins to be amplified. So this is, in a way, not only on the one hand going back to the future, but you say that this may be birthing a new kind of journalistic ethics, less about objectivity, but more about transparency. Can you please explain?

  • 13:42:31

    STANDAGEYes, certainly. So one of the things the Internet does is it undermines the reasons that we had for having a more objective media in many ways. The professionalization argument is still there, but certainly it undermines the local news monopolies and it undermines the scarcity-based arguments, you know, when you could only have a couple of radio stations or TV stations, and they needed to be objective.

  • 13:42:51

    STANDAGEWhen you can hundreds and hundreds, then, you know, why not have every possible, you know, political stripe in there? And I have a lot of sympathy for that view, but I think that there needs to be, you know, a minimum standard of sort of fairness and accuracy. I don't know how you enforce that, but, you know, as a journalist, that's what I like to see. I think the interesting thing that the Internet does in the countervailing direction, is it makes it much easier to be transparent.

  • 13:43:14

    STANDAGESo this can take many forms, but essentially it makes it much easier when you make a claim, an opinion-based claim, to say, and here are the -- here's the evidence on which I'm basing this. So, you know, free trade is good, or immigration is good for economic growth, you know. Is that true or not? Well, you can state that as an opinion or you can say, well, here are the studies that have looked into this and you can link to them.

  • 13:43:38

    STANDAGEAnd then, people who read your article and disagree with it can follow your links and see what they think. And there are many, many forms that this transparency can take. Another example that's becoming increasingly popular in the U.S. and has led the way here is the data.gov movement, where...

  • 13:43:52

    NNAMDIYes.

  • 13:43:52

    STANDAGE...you publish as much government information as you can online, and you do it at the state level, you do it at the federal level, you do it at the local level. And if the mayor or the governor or whoever is giving fat contracts to his brother, then you can see it because it's all being published. Now, it doesn't mean that everyone is going to start going through that stuff, but some people are going to go through it, if only for political reasons, because they want to oust the mayor or the governor.

  • 13:44:14

    STANDAGEBut this something you couldn't have done in the days before the Internet. You could not have printed that information and distributed it to everyone in the country. It would have been insane. But when you have the Internet, you can do this. And so one of the phrases that's been coined to encapsulate this is transparency is the new objectivity. Now, the way you build trust, the way you convince people that what you're saying is right and therefore win the rights to express your opinions, is that you convince people by linking back to your sources.

  • 13:44:43

    STANDAGEAnd bloggers have done this years, you know. If I'm a blogger and I'm making some claim and someone says, oh, that's a load of rubbish, the way I argue back is by saying, look, here are my sources. And in fact, then you start writing in a way that links to your sources inherently. So I think we're seeing a number of pressures towards transparency. Things like data.gov, things like Wikileaks, funnily enough.

  • 13:45:03

    STANDAGEI mean, Julian Assange is basically a very, very extreme transparency campaigner. He just thinks everything should be out there. I don't think most people would go that far. But the point is that in a hyperlinked world, you can justify the claims you make using links, using references to your data. And that should mean -- that should give you the license to have a greater degree of opinion, and a greater diversity of opinion.

  • 13:45:27

    NNAMDIGot to take a short break. When we come back, we'll continue this conversation with Tom Standage about the future of news. He wrote a special report in this week's edition of The Economist magazine. He joins us from studios in London. If you have questions or comments, call us at 800-433-8850, or you can send email to kojo@wamu.org, or tweet @kojoshow. Do you get your news from other sources around the world? Have you noticed any changes? You can simply go to our website, kojoshow.org. Join the conversation there. I'm Kojo Nnamdi.

  • 13:48:03

    NNAMDIWelcome back. We're discussing the future of the news with Tom Standage. He wrote a special report in The Economist magazine by that name, "Future of the News," in this week's edition of the magazine. He joins us from studios in London. I'll go directly to the telephones. Here is Rebecca in Falls Church, Va. Rebecca, you're on the air. Go ahead, please.

  • 13:48:23

    REBECCAHi. I was wondering, your guest had mentioned going back to a coffee house model of news that had prevailed in earlier times, and I was wondering if he could comment a little bit on whether he thought that would actually result in more physical gatherings, or whether that would happen in like an online kind of a condition.

  • 13:48:45

    NNAMDIWhen you mention that coffee house model of the news, Tom Standage, were you speaking in literal terms, or were you speaking in terms of virtual terms?

  • 13:48:56

    STANDAGEYeah. I was speaking chiefly metaphorically that you have this sort of online gathering and passing around a discussion of information, and that happens on comment threads on blogs, on social networks and so on. It used to happen in coffee houses, which I have likened to the blogs of the 17th century in the past. That said, one of the things that many news organizations are doing, both to engage with their communities, and as a new source of revenue, is that they are actually organizing physical events.

  • 13:49:21

    STANDAGEThe Economist has (unintelligible) but, I mean, other newspapers are doing sort of, you know, meet our journalists, or they're -- they are putting on physical events. And that does seem to be, you know, quite a successful model for some news organizations. So I wouldn't totally rule out the coffee-based model as well. I'm trying to think. I think it was the Bay Citizen that did a -- which is an online-only, philanthropically-funded news organization in San Francisco.

  • 13:49:43

    STANDAGEBut I think they do a thing where they run their news room out of a -- out of a coffee shop, you know, every so often, and they encourage people to come and talk to them. So there's a certain element to that, but chiefly, I mean, online.

  • 13:49:54

    NNAMDIThank you very much for your call, Rebecca. Tom Standage, last December, Mohammed Azizi, a young Tunisian man, set himself on fire to protest government corruption and economic stagnation. And we know what happened after that. It triggered uprisings there, in Egypt, Libya and beyond. It's well known that social media and Al-Jazeera played an important role in the uprising.

  • 13:50:16

    NNAMDIBut you flagged a less-known part of that story. Apparently, the entire staff of Al-Jazeera, Arabic and English, had just completed a training on social media platforms the month before so the pump had been primed, so to speak.

  • 13:50:32

    STANDAGEYes, that's right. So Al-Jazeera noticed actually a couple of years ago during the Gaza war, that there was a growing matter of discussion among its audience of this sort of thing online. And it realized that it if it wanted to be part of that discussion, rather than just being the TV that's playing in the corner in the tea shop or the coffee shop in the Arab world, which is its sort of traditional model where people are, you know, they really are discussing the news in a coffee room -- in a coffee shop, that they needed to be more engaged in the conversation on line.

  • 13:50:59

    STANDAGEAnd so that culminated in social media training for all of their newsrooms, which funnily enough was done at the end of last year just before the Arab Spring began. And that meant that their staff had been trained in things like how do you verify material from social networks, how can you be sure that it's what it claims to be, when should you use it, that sort of thing.

  • 13:51:18

    STANDAGEAnd they were there for a very, very well set up when the Arab Spring kicked off because the mother of the man who set himself on fire and subsequently died of his injuries, led a silent protest outside a government building that was filmed by someone on a cell phone. That was then Facebook and Al-Jazeera picked it up from there.

  • 13:51:35

    STANDAGEThey have a dedicated team doing this, like most organizations do now. And they then were able to verify it and then broadcast that. So it was the combination of the social media providing that footage, and then the massive distribution that Al-Jazeera could give it across the Arab world that really made a different there. So I don't think we can say that this was something that was just about social media.

  • 13:51:56

    STANDAGEIt was actually the hybrid of the social media and the traditional media. And I think we're going to see a lot more of that. We're going to see a lot more collaboration and sort of, you know, professionals and amateurs working together to produce better journalism, and that's just one example of it.

  • 13:52:09

    NNAMDIIn China, news media growing rapidly, navigating a whole host of unique currents. There's a great quote from a professional analyst who says newspapers are trying to dance skillfully between the party line and the bottom line. What does that mean?

  • 13:52:23

    STANDAGEWell, I think we all too easily assume in the west that the Chinese media must be completely supine and they must just be an arm of the state and just print, you know, whatever rubbish they're told to print. And in fact, that's not true at all. There are lots of journalists who are really trying to expose corruption in high places and, you know, tell the truth, and change things for the better.

  • 13:52:43

    STANDAGEAnd they are having to dance literally between the party line and the bottom line because if you just tow the party line, you don't get into trouble, but readers don't take you seriously. And it's hard to attract readers. So what you want to do is expose people enough of the time and be provocative and daring enough that you attract readers, but without really getting yourself into trouble. And to do that, you really have to cultivate links with the political people and with the party, you know, with local officials.

  • 13:53:09

    STANDAGESo that they don't mind when you expose people, and in fact, you know, they may approve of you exposing certain people. And so it's a much more complicated game than, I think, we're -- that we -- we're inclined to think of it being in the West. And further complicating the matter is the use of Sina Weibo, which is the Chinese equivalent of Twitter. And that allows journalists to write a sort of reasonably safe version of a story and then tweet out the really juicy stuff anonymously.

  • 13:53:34

    NNAMDIIn the West, we have this image of the press as a sort of -- not only investigative, but sometimes muckraking institution, even if it isn't always really doing that. In China, you have some, I guess, surreal ideas like state-permitted muckraking is what you were describing here, huh?

  • 13:53:49

    STANDAGEWell, we kind of have -- I mean, we talk about, you know, the importance of accountability journalism in the west, holding authority to account. What's striking is that in China there is this actually -- this formal doctrine of supervision by public opinion. So officially the government approves of the media (unintelligible) , but of course, in practice, they don't. And a famous example of this, well, one of the ways that these outlets would get round to the problem of not wanting to offend the local officials who could make their lives very difficult, is they would expose corruption in neighboring regions.

  • 13:54:17

    STANDAGEAnd that way, you know, they'd break a big story. But it wouldn't have any local political consequences for them. So that led to a ban on cross-regional reporting where the local governors would all say we're not going to allow journalists from other regions in because they might expose corruption and then report it somewhere else where -- so if we all decide that this is not on, then we can stop it from happening.

  • 13:54:32

    STANDAGESo there is this complete cat and mouse game going on, and the picture is -- it's very, very hard to form a picture of it from outside China. But it's much more complicated, I think, than you might suppose.

  • 13:54:43

    NNAMDIWhen we talk about the decline of traditional media here in the West, one concern that's often raised is whether we're losing a vital means to hold elected leaders and governments accountable. Sure, Twitter and blogs can give us more news in real time, but many worry that the kind of hard work thorough investigative journalism that can speak truth to power can only come from professional hacks working a beat. Is that how it's going to be in the future or not?

  • 13:55:11

    STANDAGEWell, I don't think that's quite true. I think there are other ways you can hold people to account. So to some extent, that's a bit of a self-serving argument from journalists who say you must protect us, otherwise democracy is in peril. And that's an argument they've been rehearsing for quite a while. And in fact, that goes back to -- as far as I can tell, they've been rehearsing that forever.

  • 13:55:28

    STANDAGEI mean, I went to the Strand book store in New York, and I went to the journalism shelves, and I went and looked at all these old memoirs of, you know, that had been written by people from the heyday of CBS, you know. And they're all bemoaning the decline of journalism and how terrible this is going to be from democracy. And I think the difference how is that we have new forms of being able to hold people to account with the Internet.

  • 13:55:47

    STANDAGENow, I don't think we should simply take it for granted that they will, you know, fill the gap left by the, you know, the decline of traditional investigative reporting. And local political reporting is another area that many people are concerned about, particularly in America. You know, how many people are going to town halls and checking out what's really going on?

  • 13:56:02

    STANDAGEBut that said, the Internet does give us lots and lots of new kinds of accountability that we haven't had before, the transparency sort of stuff I've mentioned as in the past, and actually, you know, people sort of converging on the truth a bit at a time in comment threads through social media. Some of that's been happening as well. Some crowd sourcing.

  • 13:56:22

    STANDAGEAnother big element here is philanthropic funding of journalism so there's been a huge movement towards that in the past three or four years in America, things like Pro Publica, which are doing really fantastic investigative work entirely funded by philanthropy. It's not clear whether that business model will be sustainable, but the really heartening thing is that there's an amazing amount of innovation going on to do journalism in new ways. And so some of these experiments will work, and I have to say on balance, I come out optimistic that this will do much more good than harm.

  • 13:56:50

    NNAMDIAre there similar concerns in Europe about local news? We got an email from Dan saying, "Can you get your guest to expand on the death of quality local news? Local government events can have a huge impact for many people, yet we are witnessing the birth of a new generation that is often indifferent to local politics. I know that's a concern here. Is it also a concern in Europe?"

  • 13:57:10

    STANDAGEWell, I think that politically the situation's quite different. In some European countries, it tends to be smaller and they tend not to have devolved so much power to, you know, to local government. I mean, certainly that's the case in Britain. So, you know, what goes on in town halls is, you know, not terribly exciting because they don't have -- they're very limited in their tax raising powers, for example. The government can cap all of that.

  • 13:57:31

    STANDAGEThe other thing is, in Britain, again, we have newspapers that compete at a national level, whereas, you know, you tend to have a city-based approach in America. So I think there were differences, but there are also concerns about this in Britain as well, and in other European countries. And so we are seeing things like -- I was talking to a German journalist who said that, you know, suddenly investigative reporting is back in fashion and, you know, everyone is creating new investigative units.

  • 13:57:55

    STANDAGEAnd, you know, it's kind of the way, if you're a news organization that's keeping its head above water, you show that you're serious about this. You go, okay, we're gonna double down. We're going to put some money into this area.

  • 13:58:05

    NNAMDIOh, I'm afraid we're just about out of time. But Tom Standage, thank you so much for joining us.

  • 13:58:10

    STANDAGEThank you very much.

  • 13:58:11

    NNAMDITom is digital editor of The Economist magazine. He wrote the special report on the future of the news in this week's edition of the magazine. Thank you all for listening. I'm Kojo Nnamdi.

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