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The Future of Media in Iowa

posted on February 26, 2009 at 6:11 PM


Newspapers have long been a source of information.  Millions still read the paper everyday.  New media have challenged papers through much of the 20th century.  First radio, then television competed for the audience of newspapers.  And there was an impact.  Many blame the demise of afternoon dailies on evening news broadcasts.

Newspapers survived, but broadcast media have enjoyed an edge in breaking news. For example, the Hindenburg Crash, Pearl Harbor and the Kennedy assassination are first remembered as broadcasts, not headlines.

In recent years Americans have enjoyed the benefits of both broadcast and print media.  But the terrain is shifting again. The internet and a flood of mobile devices delivering information from thousands of sources to millions of consumers is now viewed as a threat to the financial viability of traditional media.

Alan Oldfield/Magid: “The advertiser revenue drying up has put them in a pickle and they went I can either just cut some more or I can really try to use this as an The new model is a journalist who is nimble, who is capable of publishing on every platform because the viewer, the user, the consumer isn't really distinguishing a difference.”

And that consumer is now calling the shots; driven in great part by the demands of the next big generation, the so-called Millennial.  The group born after 1978 wants choices and options and they want them for free.  The Millennial routinely shop on the internet, but the most they will pay for media is a 99 cent song from iTunes.

Alan Oldfield/Magid “The real loss as we transition from the old model to the new model is who's going to pay for journalism? I don't pay for news on the internet because it's free.  I can go on all these sites and get free news.  Well, it's not free.  It's supported by the newspaper that lands on your doorstep or it’s supported by the car dealer who advertises in the six o'clock news.  So for right now it's free but we don't have that answer yet. I don't think the industry has that answer yet.” 

But what is value?  The cacophony of voices can in fact make information more illusive.

Alan Oldfield: “The trick is filtering it out because so many of the voices that have been added are in fact opinion, voices of opinion, not voices ah who are necessarily driven by the facts in a dispassionate view of the facts of the case.”

Brands have long ruled information and they still count.  Mainstream media still enjoy a status as credible sources of information.  But they no longer own the news. 

Chase Martin/Managing Editor/Iowa Independent: “I'm Chase Martin, managing editor of the Iowa Independent and we're Iowa's largest online only news outlet.  We try to cover matters of public policy and politics from an independent angle that you won't find in the traditional media here in Iowa.”

The Iowa Independent was started in Iowa in May of 2007 as one of 5 in the nation started by the Center for Independent Media. 

Chase Martin: “With a pretty general goal of just diversifying the news here in Iowa.  Influencing the way people, regular everyday people talk about the news stories that are shaping our state and you know our goal was also to prove that this new model of journalism where everything's done online.” 

Overhead is low.  The Independent uses part-timers for some stories, but mostly relies on three reporters fanned across the state working out of coffeehouses or their homes.  There is no newsroom. With only a website to maintain, the printing and circulation costs of a newspaper are non factors to its viability.  The publication’s biggest expense is salaries.

Chase Martin: “We're interested in experimenting finding out exactly what the best way to relay information online in this new structure is and hopefully what we do may lay a for a real profitable model of journalism in the future but our goal is purely to get information out to the public.”

Though it was launched as a not-for-profit venture, many are watching to see what could be applied to traditional news publications.  The web provides not only low-cost opportunities for dissemination, but also for news gathering.

Chase Martin: “I think that that the way of the future will be what they call crowd sourcing, where a group of people who all contribute to one online community take it upon themselves to divvy up two thousand pages of freedom of information acts documents and each go through five/six pages each individual and you know collectively as a group that online community will, will move stories and break them.  You know I think that's a very promising part of the future but you know I, I think that that the diversity of media will encourage further specificity and when you know there are even if its just a small three person news organization covering one particular beat those three people will be covering that same beat everyday and I think that that will also lead to, to better avenues for investigative work.”

Tags: 21st Century Teaching future Iowa journalism news newspapers radio television

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