More media, less news?

The New York Times reported yesterday on a study of the coverage of six major stories during one week in July 2009.   According to the Times, the study found that 83 percent of the news reports conveyed “no new information” and that of the stories that did contain some new information, 95 percent came from “old media”  (emphasis mine).  I would put this into the “depressing but not surprising” category.   The Times article concludes: “the study offered support for the argument often made by the traditional media that, so far, most of what the digital news outlets offer is repetition and commentary, not new information.”   We have heard these arguments a lot; it is interesting — and useful — to see empirical evidence of the phenomenon.  I think it’s a real problem.  As a lawyer and legal academic it frustrates me that there does not appear to be a legal solution to this problem.  I wonder if there is any solution at all?

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3 Responses

  1. I’m not sure which problem there is a solution for. Is the problem that we have no news because it gets repeated for free, driving traditional media (which has invested in news-gathering) out of business?

    Or, is the problem that new media, as great as it is, doesn’t have any incentive to develop new news and thus won’t fulfill its full potential?

    I suppose these both could be problems at the same time. There is a legal solution, though hard to enforce. The Supreme Court came up with it 100 or so years ago – the “hot news”/misappropriation doctrine. I suspect most cyberlaw types disagree with me that hot news is a good idea, but this study seems to suggest a place for it in properly incentivizing the news-gathering.

    Then again, if the repetition and commentary are original rather than copied, I suppose hot news will do little as well.

  2. question says:

    yes, please explain what “problem” you refer to.

  3. Viva Moffat says:

    As Michael points out, there are a number of potential issues. One significant one, in my opinion, is the fact (highlighted by the study) that it is still the traditional or “old” media that conducts the vast majority of the news gathering and investigative reporting, but “old” media appears to be an industry in decline. If the traditional media disappears (or is greatly diminished), who will do that investigative reporting? The current business models for the “new” media do not seem to be sufficient to support in depth reporting, news gathering, international bureaus, etc. Maybe that will change: people will pay subscription fees? or advertising will become more lucrative?