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Re: 7.30 Report “Uncertain future for newspapers”

Going through the backlog. Just a few comments on the 7.30 Report story (transcript) (video sorry for the format but its all I could see, I don’t know where I got my m4v one from).

Very interesting stuff here, but I have a couple of points. Mind you I don’t have much experience here, I’m not a journalist or an economist…

1. Government Subsidiary for Quality Journalism

One of my main concerns here is that you have two negative forces. On one hand you have the government paying for investigative journalism, but those journalists are having to fight the government to get the story to break. Would there be a need for investigative journalism in the government arena if the government was more open? You wouldn’t need the journalist filing freedom of information requests if the department put this info into the public domain by default. The solution is for the government to be more open and transparent, something which they seem to do a lot of talk about (and are doing some things that make them open), but not nearly enough.

But the government or the government departments are probably unwilling to put information out there that may embarras them. Unfortuantly you probably need so driving for that motivates government departments to be more open. I see an online “village pump” where the community can gather and build up in numbers to support certain movements (such as access to certain statistics that may be part of a journalists investigation). Those numbers are a force that could provide pressure for an unwilling government department.

2. Coverage

Nick Davies said that “what you haven’t got is citizen journalists covering the courts or the government departments or the police or the hospitals or the schools or doing investigations.” He quoted lack of “skills, time or resources” as the reason for this. I don’t believe this. A large chuck of the feeds I subscribe to are citizens blogging about copyright decisions made in court. Perhaps it is lack of cooperation of the government department. For example they charge huge unreasonable fees for your FOI application. I don’t see the solution as get a big company who can pay the fees, rather use some other methods to pressure the department into providing the information needed for investigative journalism free or charge, free for all.

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