The anxiety attacking the print media is perfectly legitimate: technology and ecological degradation have conspired decisively against newspapers — the market is taken with sexy and efficient communication devices, while trees, pulp, paper, in that consequential order, are vanishing.
But why should the time-tested, indeed timeless, idea of newspaper vanish as well? However one gets one’s news — whether by reading or by listening or by watching — is, after all, a mere matter of medium. The trick lies with content, with news itself, and, having been at the trick longer than any other news medium, the newspapers should have an essential advantage and therefore simply cannot be counted out in the paperless competition: they only need to switch media.
A number of them have in fact positioned themselves, with separate editions, online, their closest comparable medium, if only because what it dispenses is also meant to be read. But let’s not oversimplify. Switching media is akin to removal only in the loosest sense: it entails a far greater expense and effort than packing and moving. Even before the move is made in earnest, its prospects of sustainability should have been determined. As happens, such determination can only be approximated.
Cyberspace is one boundless marketplace, one that has only begun to be explored, although in its mysteries may precisely lie its allure. It has been sucking in all manner of enterprises as if to be caught out constitutes a sentence of doom, which is, of course, an exaggeration except for the truly courageous — or covetous.
Anyway, while news online is generally conceded to be the emergent logical successor to news on paper, the product and the consuming public to engage and account to remain the same in the new arrangement.
A journalist’s compass
Something ought to be said about “media accountability,” in the meantime, given the misunderstanding that may have been created by the pairing of that phrase with “public engagement.”
Accountability is not something the public needs yet to demand of the media. It’s a sense so fundamental to the profession it requires no provoking in order to make it work. It’s a self-working initiative that operates on the weight of responsibility that a journalist carries with every word he puts out. It’s a sort of compass that sets him right — right by his sworn professional duty to publicize the truth in the public interest with fairness.
Accountability, in other words, has little if at all to do with public engagement: the former is professional sense, the latter market sense.
As in the case of a sense of ethics, itself close cousin to a sense of accountability, those who possess it likely don’t need to be reminded, and those who don’t possess it likely don’t care to be reminded. (http://www.cmfr-phil.org/inmediasres/changing-with-change/)
(Vergel O. Santos has been a journalist for over four decades. He worked as a senior editor of the Business Day, consulting editor of the Journal publications, and executive editor of The Manila Times and The Manila Chronicle. He has written four books, all on his profession, one, “The Newswriting Formula”, a university text. Mr. Santos is today a member of the Board of Directors of the Center for Media Freedom and Responsibility, and Chairman of the Editorial Board of BusinessWorld, Philippines.)