Will Newspapers Survive Forum

These notes are taken from online notes prepared for a 3-day MIT Forum on Will Newspapers Survive?

The first day of the forum focused on the emergence of citizens' media and decline of American newspapers:

  • The aging of the newspaper reader
  • The emergence of citizens' media and the blogosphere
  • The fate of local news and the local newspaper, news and information in the networked future.

Don Gillmor, founder and director of the Center for Citizen Media and author of We the Media: Grassroots Journalism by the People, for the People (2004), talked about:

  • Democratization and wide participation by citizens.
  • Consumers are also producers now, because of the Internet.
  • Newspapers should become "town squares" and get everyone involved.
  • There's more criticism that traditional journalists are used to.

Ellen Foley is editor of the Wisconsin State Journal and previous managing editor for the Philadelphia Daily News:

  • Worried about journalism.
  • Sick of hearing that journalists don't care about readers.
  • Tension between slow, thoughtful newspapers and fast internet.
  • Tension between generations.
  • Searching for a new business model.

Alex Beam is a columnist for the Boston Globe:

  • Skeptical about citizens' media.
  • Time of transition and we haven't yet balanced the interests of readers and professionals.

The second day focused on news, information and the wealth of networks.

Yochai Benkler teaches communication and information law at Yale Law School. He is the author of The Wealth of Networks: How Social Production Transforms Markets and Freedom:

  • Computing networks break down division between audience (consumers) and professionals (producers).
  • Markets: YouTube started as sharing videos with friends and is now a huge market.
  • Peer production and massive collaboration are now widespread.
  • With the Internet, we are finding new ways of being productive, free, and equal.

Henry Jenkins is co-director of Comparative Media Studies and the Peter de Florez Professor of Humanities at MIT:

  • Convergence culture: Mass media controls entertainment sector and blogosphere responding, splintering, selecting, and remixing.
  • Participatory culture will increase.
  • We are beginning to explore the power of collective intelligence.

Day 3 focused on why newspapers matter.

Jerome Armstrong is the founder of Netroots.com, creator of the political blog MyDD.com and author with Markos ZĂșniga of Crashing the Gate: Netroots, Grassroots, and the Rise of People-Powered Politics.

  • Blogs will not spell the end of newspapers.
  • But will newspapers be able to customize their content as the online media has?

David Thorburn is a professor of literature and director of the Communications Forum at MIT:

  • More skeptical of the rise of blogosphere.
  • Is newspaper technology inferior because it's less participatory?
  • What about the first amendment protection of newspapers?

Pablo Boczkowski is associate professor in the Department of Communication Studies at Northwestern University and the author of Digitizing the News: Innovation in Online Newspapers:

  • Do newspapers might matter less because they've commodified the news and so reduced their diversity and individuality?

Dante Chinni is senior research associate for the Project for Excellence in Journalism and a media columnist for the Christian Science Monitor:

  • Newspapers are critical because:
    • 1: They have the most reporters on the streets.
    • 2: Blogs can deal with large news items, but they can't break large stories.
    • 3: Mainstream reporters try to get the story right; usually don't try to spin it in favor of one side or another.
    • 4: The real strength of a newspaper is its collective knowledge.