The Future of News

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Topic owners: Dharmishta Rood, Jon Fildes

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The traditional media industry is in turmoil. Circulation of newspapers is falling. Some, such as the Tribune group, are saddled with huge debts and have filed for bankruptcy. Staff are being laid off, costs are being cut and foreign bureaus are being shut. Audiences are fragmenting, advertising spending is plummeting and the valuations of companies are dropping. TV and radio are experiencing similar problems. Some organisations, such as Pasadena Now, have even begun outsourcing local news reporting to India.

Most of these changes have been blamed on the arrival of the web, which has changed how information is produced and consumed. Now, anyone can be a news gatherer, publisher and distributor. The balance of power has changed. Yet at the same time there is a paradox; the web offers organisations a huge opportunity to reach out to audiences and connect with them in new ways.

This class will seek to explore at least two of the challenges currently facing the media industry:

  • What will the business model of the future look like? As Richard Sambrook , Director of the BBC's Global News division, says: “Newspapers and broadcasters have lived for decades by selling audiences to advertisers. Now the number of eyeballs per page or per programme is falling - but we have much greater detail and granularity about where they are going and what they are doing online. Media organisations have to find a way to extract the commercial value from that”. Already, groups such as and Pro Publica are experimenting with new business models, such as community-funded reporters and grant funded newsrooms. Others, such as the Christian Science Monitor, have ditched the old way of doing things and have gone entirely online. Others, such as the Detroit News and the Detroit Free Press, seem to be following a similar strategy by cutting back on home deliveries. Will these work? Are these the right approach?
  • What will the newspapers or media outlets of the future look like? The New York Times is using its website in new and innovative ways. Others experiments, such as the LA Times wiki editorials, have been less successful. So, how should papers engage with their audience? Is news reporting now a collaborative process? How should they respond to citizen journalism? Are they competing or should they - and can they - work together?

This class will explore some of the issues facing the future of the news industry. Could they disappear? Does it matter if they do? What values are at stake beyond what the markets appear to be able to sustain? Should governments intervene to save them in the same way as they have decided to prop up the ailing car manufacturing industry? Is this an appropriate intervention? Should it be left to market forces? Ultimately, what is the future for “old media”?

Question of the week

What values are at stake in the newspaper industry and what could - or should - be done to maintain them?


We are aiming for two guests: Russ Stanton, editor at the LA Times, and Jeff Jarvis, associate professor and director of the interactive journalism program at the City University of New York and author of What Would Google Do?.

Background and Discussion


Background information:

Relevant Projects:

Recent news news that may be of interest to your group: Gwen 19:19, 11 February 2009 (UTC)

And another, which you've probably already seen:,8599,1877191,00.html Gwen 12:26, 18 February 2009 (UTC)


Each class member will need to register for a Seesmic account. Seesmic is a video blogging application which has been called the "Twitter of video". It allows threaded video discussions. You can watch a video explainer here

We would ideally like the class to be webcast and would encourage people to use twitter, blogs etc before, during and after the session.


Clearly, this is a huge area and we are not going to be able to discuss every issues facing the newspaper industy. Instead, we will look to the future. We would also like the discussion to start before the class and continue after it finishes.

Hence, we would like each group to use a webcam or mobile phone to record an elevator pitch to be posted to Seesmic before the day of the class. The pitch should describe a new business model, working practice or technology that the group thinks newspapers should adopt. Alternatively, groups can pitch a policy proposal directed at the newspaper industry. We'd also like you to explain what effect your idea would have. We have listed some relevant projects above as inspiration.

Each pitch should be short - around 2-3 minutes - and will be played out and discussed in class in the broader context of the "question of the week" above. We will aim to get our guest speakers to record their own thoughts as well.

We have started the video thread here. Groups can post their pitch as a reply. If you're idea overlaps with an already posted video, reply to that video building on the idea. Be as inventive as you like with both the idea and the video. Replies can either be recorded "live" or prerecorded and then uploaded. Please post your reply before midnight on Sunday 08 March, to give us and the contributors time to look though them before class. Remember, your video can be accessed and replied to by anyone with a Seesmic account.

We will also be sending around a short survey before the class to get a sense of people's news consumption.