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Separating the Journalism Baby from the Newspaper Bathwater

By   Follow Me on Twitter     Message Rob Kall       (Page 1 of 2 pages)     Permalink    (# of views)   17 comments

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originally published 3/18/2010 at Huffingtonpost

Newspapers are dying. Let them. There may have been people who wanted to rescue the buggy whip industry. But they were misguided. It was transportation they really cared about. We need to initiate dynamic, bottom-up approaches to support the ailing field of Journalism, not newspapers.

The writing is on the web and the smart phone, not the wall, not the paper. Newspapers are dying because new generations with bottom-up brains marinated in the internet no longer read newspapers. Under 30s want text message and twitter tweet length reading material and they want video and podcasts, not dead tree long writing.

Congress held hearings on the newspaper industry. There's talk or allusion to the idea that newspapers will be "rescued" by Obama, by congress. That's a bad idea. They are rescuing the bathwater, not the baby.

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The function of newspapers that is important is investigative journalism -- digging up the less than obvious, the secrets that government and corporate officials hide. Journalists make transparent that which has been hidden or made hard to see or find.

Newspapers have been among the primary sources for funding journalists. But as media ownership has consolidated and become less diverse and more top-down, so the number of independent newspapers has dropped, and as revenues have dropped, less and less money has been allotted to pay for investigative reporting. And that consolidated, increasingly top-down trend has hurt journalism, just as consolidation of the banking industry after the economic meltdown has failed to help the average American.

The new American business model, the one that has proven to be fabulously successful even in these tough times, is based on bottom-up approaches. Google, Amazon, Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, to name a few, are all based on inviting the crowd into the business mix. Transparency is a big part of the new corporation and so is open sourcing of information -- that means giving things away free.

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I'm a firm believer that a strong media, and that means strong investigative journalism, is essential for democracy and efficient operation of both government and corporations. Investigative journalism digs and exposes. That's an incredibly valuable function. It's so valuable, it's worth investing in ... with the expectation of solid returns on that investment.

I say, instead of taking a top down approach and giving huge chunks of money to a handful of failing newspapers, (the same approach that was not very effective, in the long run, in dealing with the bank liquidity crisis), have government fund journalism and journalists from the bottom up. Take a bottom-up approach and give the money to tens of thousands of journalists -- writers and photographers and videographers. That will take huge financial pressure off the newspapers, give them a lot more content they can use, and help expand the growing blogosphere, where content is usually free and millions of people are operating small businesses with the potential to grow. Small business is where the most job creation has always flourished and small businesses are not too big to die.

Establish a budget based on a reasonable rate of return. The US economy is about $13 trillion dollars. I say, invest a quarter of a tenth of one percent on journalists, whose job it is to investigate politicians, laws, corporations, with the goal to increase transparency, decrease corruption and increase responsibility, honesty, accountability, growth and prosperity. A budget that size is about $ 3.5 billion. With a salary model, this budget would allow for 50,000 journalists with $60,000/year salaries, plus benefits.

Then, those journalists would be responsible for getting their work read. The best journalists would be picked up by the best media. The journalists whose work did not get attention would make less money each year. We have ways to measure interest and readership -- Google ranking, Quantcast, Alexa.com, and Amazon all assess the traffic, the number of links and the popularity of things, sites, even ideas. Facebook, Twitter and instagram shares could also be added to the accounting. If a writer's reporting is picked up by the TV news, by hundreds or thousands of bloggers, that writer is reaching a lot of people. A bottom-up media approach will let we-the-people decide which journalists are the best.

Or, going even more bottom-up, open journalism to every writer, photographer and videographer. Track their traffic and views, factor in the service they do, in terms of exposing waste, corruption, good work, etc. and reward them based on those factors.

In the bottom-up world, where thousands or millions of people share in decision making, network TV has a limited place. There are exceptions. American Idol and The Voice tap the wisdom of the crowd to some extent. That approach could be taken much farther. Imagine news shows where a bottom up approach was applied to deciding what news was covered. If you look at Digg.com, Fark, Reddit, Yahoo's buzzup, Buzzflash's buzz, and Twitter tweet counts, they all enable users to vote on which headlines rise to the top. If a major network or a new network allowed viewers to decide what was covered, this would even allow network news to become bottom up. Would it work? The number of viewers would be a clear indicator. It won't be surprising if certain topics gather a lot of support that may not pull a lot of viewers. For example, if a group like Focus on the Family goes to a site and artificially votes up coverage of an abortion protest, but then, no-one watches the coverage, it will be easy to develop software that discounts votes for certain topics for a certain period of time.

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Not all journalism is mediagenic and sexy. There will have to be some way to give credit to journalists who cover local school board and town council meetings, because they should be covered too.

If the US government invests directly in journalists, so their writings and reports can be freely used by any media organization or site, that investment will yield big results. Instead of seeing journalists as employees who generate news to sell papers, we can view journalists as sleuths to find waste, corruption, cool ideas and projects that are working. I don't think that government should fund coverage of sports or celebrities. It seems those topics are still doing pretty well. We need to fund investigative journalism, not entertainment journalism.

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Rob Kall is an award winning journalist, inventor, software architect, connector and visionary. His work and his writing have been featured in the New York Times, the Wall Street Journal, CNN, ABC, the HuffingtonPost, Success, Discover and other media. He's given talks and workshops to Fortune 500 execs and national medical and psychological organizations, and pioneered first-of-their-kind conferences in Positive Psychology, Brain Science and Story. He hosts some of the world's smartest, most interesting and powerful people on his Bottom Up Radio Show, and founded and publishes one of the top Google- ranked progressive news and opinion sites, OpEdNews.com

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Rob Kall has spent his adult life as an awakener and empowerer-- first in the field of biofeedback, inventing products, developing software and a music recording label, MuPsych, within the company he founded in 1978-- Futurehealth, and founding, organizing and running 3 conferences: Winter Brain, on Neurofeedback and consciousness, Optimal Functioning and Positive Psychology (a pioneer in the field of Positive Psychology, first presenting workshops on it in 1985) and Storycon Summit Meeting on the Art Science and Application of Story-- each the first of their kind.  Then, when he found the process of raising people's consciousness and empowering them to take more control of their lives  one person at a time was too slow, he founded Opednews.com-- which has been the top search result on Google for the terms liberal news and progressive opinion for several years. Rob began his Bottom-up Radio show, broadcast on WNJC 1360 AM to Metro Philly, also available on iTunes, covering the transition of our culture, business and world from predominantly Top-down (hierarchical, centralized, authoritarian, patriarchal, big)  to bottom-up (egalitarian, local, interdependent, grassroots, archetypal feminine and small.) Recent long-term projects include a book, Bottom-up-- The Connection Revolution, debillionairizing the planet and the Psychopathy Defense and Optimization Project. 

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Thomas Knapp

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"If the US government invests directly in journalists, we'll get the journalism the US government wants us to have." Fixed, no charge.

Submitted on Monday, Sep 24, 2018 at 7:58:29 PM

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Rob Kall

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Reply to Thomas Knapp:   New Content

That's a knee-jerk, anti-government reaction.

If the funding is structured so it journalists can be independent, as I describe it doesn't have to be that way.


Of course my argument raises the question of whether it is even possible to fund projects that are not inordinately influenced by government. If there were a way to do so, that would be an improvement over government that does not use that model. And I'd guess it would be preferable to Libertarians.

Submitted on Wednesday, Sep 26, 2018 at 2:44:59 PM

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Thomas Knapp

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Was Karl Marx an anti-government libertarian?


As he pointed out, the state is the executive committee of the ruling class.


If the state funds journalism, it WILL do so in a manner that supports the interests of that ruling class.


We already have a mainstream media paradigm in which major publications tend to serve as stenographers for the government agencies they cover. That's a problem ... how does having that very government directly cut the journalists' paychecks solve it?

Submitted on Thursday, Sep 27, 2018 at 10:30:38 AM

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"the state is the executive committee of the ruling class." Not necessarily. The state is what brought us Social Security, Medicare, childhood immunization and other public health initiatives, environment regulation, public education, public transit, food stamps and the rest of the social safety net, LAWS, etc., etc., etc. Without government we'd be hunter-gatherers. Stop spewing that ridiculous anti-government b.s.

Submitted on Thursday, Sep 27, 2018 at 3:29:19 PM

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It is called propaganda, and the government has always had that bully pulpit, but the internet has added a new dynamic that make it imperative that real journalism emerge.

See my comment to B Falcon, who all offers a Whaddabout this" at Meryl'sArticle: How Editing Our Past Changes Our Future |

Submitted on Wednesday, Sep 26, 2018 at 9:36:55 PM

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Yours is a top-down idea: using taxpayer money to subsidize journalists.


You write, "The new American business model, the one that has proven to be fabulously successful even in these tough times, is based on bottom-up approaches. Google, Amazon, Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, to name a few, are all based on inviting the crowd into the business mix." Not so! Those corporations are extremely top-down in their decision-making. That's why they are so successful. But they are able to profit off of others' work. Google and Facebook pay almost nothing for others work. Youtube has a huge amount of pirated copyrighted material, from which google/Alphabate makes advertising revenue. Amazon underpays book publishers and authors. Those companies aren't good examples of the bottom-up future. They are good examples of increased concentration of wealth and of the destruction of livelihoods for artists, authors, and musicians.

You talk about journalists submitting their work to media outlets. How will those outlets survive? By ad revenue? It's peanuts and is decreasing. Besides, journalists work in teams and need editors. Bottom-up is inefficient. Top-down works very well -- which is why corporations are so successful.

Submitted on Monday, Sep 24, 2018 at 10:10:59 PM

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Rob Kall

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It's a hybrid-- top down money distributed in a bottom-up way. You say bottom-up is inefficient and top down works well. I'd like to see the studies that show that.


Good points about how to distribute the findings of the investigative journalists. I am painfully aware of the precipitous drop in ad revenues. Any suggestions on what COULD work?


And regarding the megaplatforms abuses, please cut me a little slack, since this is a re-running of an article I wrote in 2010, when the problem with megaplatforms was not so evident.


Bottom line though, is that top-down, old-school newspapers and magazines are endangered species and we need to find a way to save and strengthen investigative journalism. Top down news corporations are not doing the investigative journalism we need. They use pundits to react to the latest emerging news. So top-down corporations do not seem to be a viable solution to the dying of newspapers.

Submitted on Wednesday, Sep 26, 2018 at 2:42:01 PM

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Newspapers are dead. The Internet is the way. These things are a given.

But, it should also be obvious that "Google, Amazon, Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, to name a few" have proven they're not here to help journalism.

At a time when TPTB are using these sites to corral and control the flow of information, it is absurd to continue to promote the idea of using them. It is time to stop thinking of these sites as a source of revenue, and start rejecting them for what they are.

There's nothing "bottom-up" about what they're doing.

Submitted on Tuesday, Sep 25, 2018 at 5:53:37 PM

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Good point. This was a reprinting of an article I wrote eight years ago when the abuses of the megaplatforms was not so clear.

Submitted on Wednesday, Sep 26, 2018 at 2:35:39 PM

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I know.

But you're publishing it at a time that calls for that point to be appended to it more than ever.

We can't continue to build websites on the Google revenue model, and we can't keep trusting content to sites that are captured by corporate money and government agenda.

Submitted on Wednesday, Sep 26, 2018 at 4:52:27 PM

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Good point. An ignorant citizenry is the goal of those who have 'weaponized, disinformation,' as a way of meddling with our elections. Meddling in what drives a society is being weaponized!

How hard is that to get? The internet transformed how information is delivered.

The end of real journalism is the inadvertent consequences of a transformational era!

see my comment in full on this page. I had written it to post at Meryl Butler's article, when another commentator missed the POINT about what is happening now.

Yeah, it ain't short... but it tells the truth, nor mY truth, but the observable reality kind of truth.

Submitted on Wednesday, Sep 26, 2018 at 9:38:23 PM

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This is not short, but it has links that are interesting (and a few humorous links about alternative reality.)

Things that we know to be true are beneficial. No decision is well-made based on a lack of prior knowledge. Societies based on false information do not survive,

It has become NORMAL to insinuate that lies are as valuable as the truth, and thus, must be heard because-- this is a free society. (LOL) Free to lie though your teeth'' is the reasoning that there is always 'another side' to a truth --i.e. 'opinion' masquerading as a fact

You cannot have an educated citizenry and elect a Trump. It is Shared knowledge that MAKES DEMOCRACY POSSIBLE.

E.D. Hirsch wrote that 'old' bit of information decades ago. Journalists need to confront lies! That is what must be done! it takes real journalism, and joining out ad our one "devil's advocate" does, that the government always does that is just a devise to end the conversation.

An ignorant citizenry is the goal of those who have 'weaponized, disinformation,' as a way of meddling with our elections and with what we need! Here it meddles with medial knowledge. Cognitive biases TRICK our mind.

Meddling in what drives a society is being weaponized! How hard is that to get? The internet transformed how information is delivered.

The end of real journalism is the inadvertent consequences of a transformational era! Journalism's Gatekeepers Lost Control of Their Gates

Journalism is a must -have- in order to expose truth.

Media today has as it's goal to sell --and thus, --in the name of fairness and balance-- what these 'reporters' tell us -- must offer both sides. We get a lot of: 'what about this"-- as if that is fair and good "journalism'! People who distain reality will buy the paper, or tune in.

But giving equal weight to misinformation is creating echo chambers of lies .

"Truth is NOT truth," says our American President's lawyer, out loud-- on the air -- as if it was a fact. Alternative facts are NOT facts, they are lies" that link is a really humorous satire on this notion.

Kelly-Anne Conway took the world by storm with her "Alternative facts" --"just like facts but better"-- as this Fiore cartoon makes clear.

Trump's Attacks on the News Media Are Getting Even More Dangerous "and some of Trump's associates are open about the fact that his effort to discredit the media, which in recent days , is now central to his survival strategy. But political expediency provides no excuse whatsoever for demonizing journalists and describing them as the public enemy.

"That is the language of dictators and despots. One of these days, God forbid, it is likely to produce more than threats."

We see the result of disinformation meddling with our schools -- as powerful, (monied) forces changing the conversation, converting lies to truth, meddling not just with our free press, but with our public discourse, by calling our Fake News when truth appears, and then substituting fake data from 'experts'

Words MATTER! They help us to 'think' about what is before us! How can we think? -- I.E. compare and contrast this to that--which is REAL CRITICAL THOUGHT! This is something that genuine teachers know! I taught critical thinking skills (anlaysis) in order to help 7th graders to think enough to be able to write coherently.

If we have no prior knowledge of what happened before -- in the past-- for example when LIES became the PROPAGANDA, how can we know what is true today?

And, make no mistake about it, knowing truth IS the only way for democracy to survive. The people who engineered a 1.5 trillion dollar theft of our GNP cannot tolerate the teaching, or telling of truth. Critical thinking is a 'no-no' to the oligarchs who use the internet to push alternative truth. I think this says it well The Dark Age of American Thought

Submitted on Wednesday, Sep 26, 2018 at 10:12:24 PM

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and I just had to post this:
Copyrighted Image? DMCA

Submitted on Wednesday, Sep 26, 2018 at 10:22:02 PM

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That's assuming he knows who Orwell was!

Submitted on Wednesday, Sep 26, 2018 at 11:02:52 PM

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I do not read newspapers because they are expensive and because of the poor quality of their content. They print what the government/deep state wants people to hear. They are boring. I think there was a deliberate effort to undermine newspapers. I grew up in New York City, where there were many dailies to choose from, all hotly competing with each other. There was the Journal American, the World Telegram and Sun, the Mirror, the Daily News, the New York Times, the Wall St. Journal, the New York Post (which was highbrow and well respected in its day), the Herald Tribune (a terrific paper), Newsday, and probably some I cannot recall now. I remember when the New York times was three cents. Anybody could have picked up a copy, and it was considered cheap. But today, with incomes suffering due to lavish defense spending and resources wasted on wars, many can no longer afford a newspaper. I have not been able to for many years. Two dollars fifty cents for the New York Times (haven't bought it for so long, not sure that is the current price) is outrageous. Some think there was a deliberate effort to undermine the newspaper business. The fierce competition used to guarantee quality journalism. The business model of low per-copy price subsidized by ad revenues seemed to work. Some say it was the unions that killed newspapers. When the New York HErald Tribune folded, it was a real blow to New Yorkers.


If the quality of journalism improved, and wars of choice ceased, my guess would be that newspapers would thrive once again. Either way, I am for Rob's goal of improving journalism, but the primarly means of doing so should be to remove government-deep state influence. The money Rob suggests to spend on journalists could be spent on investigating the relationship between the government and journalism.

Submitted on Thursday, Sep 27, 2018 at 1:37:10 AM

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At the same time, we have had such programs as Rob suggests in other areas. The WPA of the 1930s put artists to work, and we can see the results in the many murals they painted for public buildings such as libraries and post offices. Would such a system of funding journalism for the sake of employing reporters result in creating a similar legacy? Very possibly. Much depends on how it is done. Was there a literary component to the WPA?

But calling newspapers "horse and buggy" is a bit over the top. Shall we stop publishing books too? They are "horse and buggy as well, are they not? We should have a discussion/debate on whether book publishing should relinquish hard copies. It's related to the elimination of newspapers.

Submitted on Thursday, Sep 27, 2018 at 2:11:13 PM

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Reply to Peter Duveen:   New Content

The market seems to be handling books pretty well.


Sales of physical books declined for a few years, then started rising again in 2012. 65% of book purchases are of physical books.


Variety is increasing due to ease of self-publishing. Niches that interested the old-line publishing houses little or not at all can now be served.


Quality may be suffering due to that same ease. I don't know, and it's kind of subjective. But books as such aren't declining in circulation the way print newspapers are.


Personally, I tend to go ebook for non-fiction (especially since I may be using that non-fiction in my own writing and it's easier to have it on a screen next to my text editor) and physical book for a novel to curl up with (I don't have a Kindle and I'm not too fond of the reading experience with a phone or cheap tablet).

Submitted on Thursday, Sep 27, 2018 at 3:32:20 PM

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