The Internet Is a Game Changer

A Paperless World

The debate is no longer confined to a few academics in distant universities. It is now a widely prevalent, mainstream topic of discussion.

How will the news of the future be distributed? The jury is still out, but not completely. Increasingly, we are driven to believe that the future will be paperless. Some argue that the “paper” will be taken out of the “newspaper” within a few years. Their logic might have come across as far-fetched in the late 1990s, but it can hardly be dismissed in 2010.

Two American intellectuals added their voices to the chorus of those predicting that the print media would not continue to define the news for long. In October 2009, Leonard Downie Jr., vice president at large and former executive editor of the Washington Post, and Michael Schudson, professor of Communication at Columbia University’s Graduate School of Journalism, co-authored a 98-page paper entitled, “The Reconstruction of American Journalism.”

Here, they made the assertion that: “Newspapers and television news are not going to vanish in the foreseeable future … But they will play diminished roles in an emerging and still rapidly changing world of digital journalism, in which the means of news reporting are being re-invented, the character of news is being reconstructed, and reporting is being distributed across a greater number and variety of news organizations, new and old.”

The idea is not a new one. In August 24, 2006, The Economist published an article entitled, “Who killed the newspaper?,” which claimed that, “Of all the ‘old’ media, newspapers have the most to lose from the Internet. Circulation has been falling in America, Western Europe, Latin America, Australia and New Zealand for decades … in the past few years the Web has hastened the decline.”

While we freely refer to the digital media revolution as “new media,” few dare classify print newspapers as “old.” The Economist did, nearly four years ago. Considering the speed at which the digital media world is moving — with the introduction of new gadgets and the level of Internet penetration throughout the world — print papers are now most definitely old and aging.

The magazine also made an interesting reference to Philip Meyer, whose works include, “Precision Journalism: A Reporter’s Introduction to Social Science Methods and Newspaper Ethics in the New Century: A Report to the American Society of Newspaper Editors.”

In his most recent book, The Vanishing Newspaper, Meyer calculates that “the first quarter of 2043 will be the moment when newsprint dies in America as the last exhausted reader tosses aside the last crumpled edition.”

More, digital media are making waves not just in the constant improvement of news and information technology, but also influencing the level of trust readers have in the new media. Indeed, it is not just about how the news is conveyed — digitally or on paper — but how our perception of the news is changing altogether.

American intellectual and best-selling author John Mearsheimer didn’t neglect to refer to the Internet in one of the most important and honest assessments on “The Future of Palestine.” In his recent speech, he stated that “The Internet is a game changer. It not only makes it easy for the opponents of apartheid to get the real story out to the world, but it also allows Americans to learn the story that the New York Times and the Washington Post have been hiding from them.”

Those familiar with the book Manufacturing Consent, by Edward S. Herman and Noam Chomsky, understand well that traditional media coverage of news is largely determined by “filters” which allow competing interests to determine what we read and watch, and thus our perception of the world. The Internet, despite all its shortcomings, is much more equitable and democratic. That should not discount the fact that poorer countries still do not have the kind of Internet availability, speed and access that is common and widespread in the developed world. But the fact that an online community newspaper has a fighting chance, like any other mainstream newspaper, is certainly worth celebrating as an achievement.

There is also another reason why we will continue to go digital, and why it will only be a matter of years before the pendulum turns in favor of paperless media world.

The latest Climate Change conference in Copenhagen failed to set limits on carbon emissions or to come up with any serious or binding agreements. It was a colossal disappointment. But that failure was political more than scientific. Very few still argue that global warming is a hoax, or believe that the environment is sustainable, considering our long-unchecked way of life. More, recycling is no longer a fad. Some countries are debating laws that make recycling mandatory, and to punish violators. Considering all of this, it is difficult to imagine that years from now we will continue to use and discard newspapers so readily, as if the paper on which news is printed doesn’t come from trees, and as if discarded papers don’t constitute landfill.

Bob Dylan continues to be right. “The Times They Are a-Changin.” And it’s time that we also appreciate that change, not resist it; work with it, not against it. There is no shame in embracing change. When the first commercially successful trans-Atlantic telegraph cable was completed in July 1866, some must have thought that humanity had reached the zenith of achievements as far as the field of communications was concerned. Now telegraphs are only found in museums and are coveted collectors’ items. Instead, hundreds of millions of people routinely and conveniently send texts, sounds, images and videos through their cell phones without much fuss or excitement. Although the concept is still the same, the medium has changed dramatically.

The same can be said about news. The news industry will never die; in fact, in a globalized and interconnected world, we will seek news more than ever before. But the medium will inevitably change, and there is nothing we can do to stop it. It is telling that the most featured and best-selling item from Amazon.com is the Kindle digital reader, and that iPad has been topping news related to publishing technology all around the world.

“The Times They Are a-Changin.” And we’d better change accordingly.

Ramzy Baroud is an author and a journalist. His latest volume is The Second Palestinian Intifada: A Chronicle of a People's Struggle (Pluto Press, London). He can be reached at ramzybaroud@hotmail.com. Read other articles by Ramzy.

12 comments on this article so far ...

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  1. Melissa said on May 27th, 2010 at 10:40am #

    Another read (for american herd) on the subject: The Death and Life of American Journalism: the Media Revolution that Will Begin the World Again

    Authors: Robert W. McChesney and John Nichols.

    Interesting lefty arguments using ‘founding fathers’ history to make a case for subsidizing a free and independent press. Great footnotes and court cases cited.

  2. MichaelKenny said on May 27th, 2010 at 11:03am #

    One thing I would disagree with is the John Mearsheimer quote. I am horrified by the level of lying on the internet, both in the form of false flag articles and frequently enough, open lies that would have made Dr Goebbels blush. A level of lying is possible on the internet far beyond what would “pass” in the traditional media, essentially, because of anonymity: undisclosed pseudonyms, websites run by unidentifiable persons and/or financed from undisclosed sources, for example. The traditional media can’t get away with that because both the people who write the material and the owners of the media outlets are identified. If you google internet authors, frequently, they don’t seem to exist outside of cyberspace and often enough, outside of the very article you are reading! Yet, website editors post such articles routinely. Equally, the “potted” biographies of authors which appear at the end of articles are often so carefully framed as to be true only in the strictest literal sense and, for that very reason, would appear to be deliberately intended to mislead. Yet, website editors post such articles routinely. And, of course, it easier to peddle a “party line” on the internet, precisely because of anonymity. A “spontaneous” chorus of articles on the same subject will suddenly appear, written by authors who have no visible connection with each other but all of whom make essentially the same point. Readers are thus spoon-fed one side of a story as if it was the only possible viewpoint and all other viewpoints are censored out (by whom?). How is that better than the “old” media, or, indeed, different? If anything, the discourse on the internet seems to be even more tightly controlled (to borrow Prof. Mearsheimer’s famous phrase!) than in the old media.
    As the world goes over to digital media, therefore, there will need to be a more critical and sceptical approach from readers and the corollary of that, more disclosure regarding both authors and websites.

  3. Rehmat said on May 28th, 2010 at 2:33am #

    That’s why as part of Israeli Hasbara project – Jewish lobby groups are campaigning in the US and Europe to have censorship on internet and other media outlets.

    Thou shalt not know the truth about Middle East
    http://rehmat1.wordpress.com/2010/05/17/thou-shalt-not-know-the-truth-about-middle-east/

  4. Mulga Mumblebrain said on May 28th, 2010 at 3:53am #

    As usual Rehmat hits the nail on the head. Anyone with half a brain and any detailed knowledge of events gave up on the mainstream media decades ago. I remember papers that, despite their universal bias to the interests of the business bosses who owned them and to their class interest, at least allowed a modicum of debate. This was in accordance with that old lie that we, in the West, lived in a ‘democracy’, part of the mythical “free World’ where all ideas were welcome and could compete on their merits. This was always a lie, but the occasional ‘leftist’ opinion could be aired, then derided, giving the pretence of a free exchange of ideas.
    Then,about thirty years ago, in Australia at least, things began to change. These changes were led by Rupert Moloch and his Evil Empire, ‘News’ Ltd’. It began during the Whitlam Government, from 1972-5. This mildly reformist, ‘social democratic’ government, coming after twenty three years of reactionary misrule, aroused insane levels of hatred on the Right. The Whitlamites recognised ‘Red’ China, granted land rights to Aborigines, reformed divorce law, criticised US war crimes in Vietnam etc, and the Right went ape-shit. As well as unprecedented obstruction in parliament, with more bills vetoed in the upper house than in the previous seventy-one years, unprincipled actions by racist and quasi-fascist state regimes like that of the arch-reactionary Bjelke-Petersen in Queensland, the media turned feral. Moloch, who had supported Whitlam in 1972, turned his media empire against Labor, and the lies and vilification flowed as never before. Australian media has never been the same again. Across newspapers, Right and far Right opinion makers abound. Lying is rampant, and vicious abuse as well. Certain groups, particularly Moslems, Arabs, Aborigines, trade unionists, public school teachers and environmentalists are abused and demonised year in and year out. The language is no more that of polite disagreement. The vilified are represented as not ill-informed, but evil and dangerous. This stuff in all its Manichean ghastliness,is,of course, the crudest projection,as the hatemongers are as scurvy a bunch of troglodytes as one could fear to encounter, but they completely dominate. The situation is the same with talk-back radio, completely dominated by insanely vicious, abusive, ignorant and moronic hatemongers. Needless to say the pet obsessions of the Right, ie love of Israel and the US, denial of anthropogenic climate change, hatred of workers and the poor, all are relentlessly drummed into peoples’ heads. And, as is also plainly the case in the US and the UK, Zionist Jews abound, in numbers far beyond their percentage of the community, alongside Sabbat Goy stooges, whose histrionic devotion to Israel long ago passed into the realm of mania.
    Coverage of the Israel/Palestine question long past became risible in its virulent bias, yet the Zionists still bleat and whine insanely about the bias towards the Palestinians, revealing their true detachment from reality and boundless narcissistic sense of entitlement. On the internet, where the censorship of Rightwing money power does not dominate, the truth has been getting out, and slowly the public is wising up to Israeli terror and evil. This has,of course, sent the Zionists into a frenzy of abuse and activity. I have been banned from various sites, such as that of the ABC Unleashed comment spot. None of my posts any longer appear, and a little Googling reveals Ziofascist blogs where they boast of their success in leaning on the ABC, itself headed by a Zionist Jew and climate change denier, Maurice Newman, appointed by the late far Right PM, John Howard. That the Zionist thought police wish to control the Internet as totally as they control the mass media can come as no surprise. These are creatures who equate all critcism of Israel’s crimes as ‘anti-semitism’, who hold a worldview that Jews are Holy and incapable of crime and that Israel’s victims are ‘human dust’. They hate those who support the Palestinians for no other reason than principled opposition to crimes against humanity, with a viciousness that is quite chilling, but is typical of those afflicted by extreme arrogance, egomania and narcissism. They believe that they are superior to the rest of humanity, and that humanity must accord them unique status and sing the praises of their orgies of child murder and ritual slayings like the Dubai atrocity. They have declared war on the decent fraction of humanity, and are drawing to their cause every racist, fascist and xenophobe in the West and amongst corrupt poor world elites. Setting themselves up as humanity’s thought police is simply par for the course for these monomaniacal bullies.

  5. mary said on May 28th, 2010 at 12:42pm #

    Ramzy Baroud says ‘The news industry will never die; in fact, in a globalized and interconnected world, we will seek news more than ever before.’

    We might seek news but here in the UK we are not getting any about the flotilla of 8 ships carrying 800 passengers and cargo to break the siege on Gaza. This flotilla has apparently departed from Cyprus and is expected to arrive tomorrow or Sunday. We will want to know whether Israel is going to carry out its threats to attack the convoy and kidnap the passengers, both illegal actions in international waters.

    However there is a complete news blackout by the BBC and very little coverage elsewhere in the MSM. See if you can spot any reference on this current Middle East page of the BBC website. Nothing. Zilch.
    http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/world/middle_east/default.stm

    John Hilley, a leading light in the Scottish Palestine Solidarity Campaign, wrote to the BBC this morning. Note his repeated use of the phrase ‘Major International News Gathering Organisation (Middle East section)’ to give them a poke. They have not responded or reacted.

    To BBC re Gaza Flotilla
    Posted by John Hilley on May 28, 2010, 11:03 am on medialens

    Dear Major International News Gathering Organisation (Middle East section)

    Hi

    As a BBC online viewer, I’d like to alert you to reports that a big flotilla of boats is currently making its way across the Mediterranean to Gaza with around 800 activist passengers and a massive cargo of humanitarian aid.

    You may not know about this international convoy, widely covered and tracked as a major story by other principal news outlets like al Jazeera, AFP, the Guardian, Haaretz and others.

    As a Major International News Gathering Organisation (Middle East section) you may want to check the story out, as it might be of some substantial interest to your readers.

    Aside from the key humanitarian issues, there’s a potentially explosive situation pending after the Israeli cabinet met in emergency session and instructed its navy to intercept the flotilla, arrest all its passengers and seize the cargo, all in gross violation, so many expert observers say, of international law.

    I’m no expert myself in these matters, but I’d speculate that any Israeli seizure of the large Turkish liner, in particular, carrying the bulk of supporters and cargo, might just become a critical diplomatic incident.

    There might also be some scope, in running such a story, to help explain the continuing siege of Gaza and the reasons for all these international efforts to provide assistance for the Palestinians – you know, that BBC thing about informing and educating viewers.

    Meanwhile, I’m curious to know why there’s been no report of the matter, to date. I assume it’s just an innocent oversight and realise, of course, that even a Major International News Gathering Organisation (Middle East section) can’t cover everything, even this kind of globally-supported flotilla and emergency situation for Israel. It’s always interesting to know how a Major International News Gathering Organisation (Middle East section) selects and determines its news output.

    Anyway, I hope, as a Major International News Gathering Organisation (Middle East section) you can find some time, resources and willingness to put up a report soon.

    Regards

    John Hilley

    ~~~~~~~~~

    As licence fee payers and supporters of the Palestinians, we are all totally disgusted.

  6. mary said on May 28th, 2010 at 1:48pm #

    As you were saying Mulga.

    http://www.theaustralian.com.au/news/opinion/expelling-israeli-diplomat-was-a-confected-self-serving-exercise/story-e6frg6zo-1225872725510

    Skimmed this story re expulsion of diplomat. Journalist/feature writer a lackey for Murdoch and the Zionist entity. Tentacles everywhere, and Danby a likely hasbara voice. Danby, an MP criticised it.
    Have a quick look at his page on the Australian Parliament website – he is a true friend of Israel and has been for many years.

    http://www.aph.gov.au/house/members/member.asp?id=WF6

  7. Mulga Mumblebrain said on May 28th, 2010 at 10:49pm #

    Oh, I know Danby well mary.I often turn on the radio late at night before sleeping, and listen to Parliament,in order to briefly reinforce my contempt for that lunatic asylum. Twice in recent years I’ve heard Danby using the ‘Grievance Debate’ to abuse and vilify people for not kowtowing to his Holy State, which, I believe, is his real homeland and his prime loyalty. Once it was Michael Leunig,one of our finest cartoonists,and a real humanitarian, being vilely, and I do mean viciously,abused for his criticisms of Israel’s bestiality in Gaza (pre ‘Cast Lead’). Danby is also,in my opinion, the prime Sinophobe in the Australian Parliament, proof I believe of the obvious fact that Zionism is a mortal enemy of China, determined to derail or delay its rise, simply because Jewish money power does not own and control China as it does the West. Danby wrote what I found to be a foul piece in one of Moloch’s even more down market rags ‘The Daily Telegraph’, accusing China of genocide by being complicit with Sudan in the non-existent ‘genocide’ in Darfur. I e-mailed the Chinese Consulate and Embassy to see what they made of a party, the Labor Party, led by Chinese speaker Rudd, harbouring such virulent Sinophobes,and received polite replies. Danby also slimes all over the Dalai at every opportunity, and invited the Uighur terrorist leader Kadeer to Australia, and a little scandal was confected by the Zionists who run the Melbourne Film Festival and the Rightwing media over China’s understandable outrage at her presence so soon after the riots and murders of Han Chinese in Xinjiang. In my opinion Danby is, unsurprisingly for a bellicose and belligerent Zionist, the most dangerous figure in federal politics, with amazing influence and a cabal of media paramours led by the unspeakable Greg Sheridan, whose adulation has reached such levels that one detects a faintly homoerotic edge to it all.

  8. mary said on May 29th, 2010 at 2:37am #

    Thanks Mulga. What a nasty piece you describe. I expect he is following this story of the flotilla to Gaza in the great expectation that his Israeli friends will attack the ships, imprison the passengers and prevent the cargo from reaching the hands of the poor people living there under such dreadful oppression.

    Still nothing on the BBC! The lot in charge who prevented the Gaza appeal being transmitted are still doing their Israeli masters’ work.

    Still no report from BBC on Gaza flotilla
    Posted by John Hilley on May 29, 2010, 10:22 am on medialens

    Sent to:
    Steve Herrmann and
    Tarik Kafala
    BBC Online

    Saturday, 29 May 2010
    BBC still silent on Gaza Flotilla

    It’s now Saturday morning, 29 May, the Gaza aid flotilla – follow its progress here – has encountered dark restrictions from the Cypriot authorities, there’s been an intensification of threats from Israel – notably Avigdor Lieberman – to attack the boats and the situation has become increasingly tense as international statements of support for the convoy build and the activists vow to break the siege in order to deliver their valuable cargo.

    And guess what? There’s still not a word on the issue and all these crucial developments from the BBC.

    Despite rolling reports now from other international media like Al Jazeera, the New York Times, Reuters, AFP, the Guardian, Independent, Irish Times and Haaretz, the BBC’s News Online page remains completely silent on this major story.

    Isn’t it astonishing disgrace? Leaving aside the blatant bias by selective omission, what does this say about the standing of the BBC as a principal news dispensing body?

    My complaint letter, yesterday, to BBC Online also remains unanswered.

    Did we ever need any more proof of the BBC’s ‘journalistic’ and editorial complicity in Palestinian suffering?

    Today, people will visit our Palestine human rights stall. And we’ll tell them about the flotilla and all these mendacious efforts to stop it. And they will be appalled and saddened. And they’ll probably say, “but we didn’t hear anything about all this on the news.” And they might well ask, “why wasn’t it reported by the BBC?”

    Questions of vital importance for the BBC to answer. If only they had the self-inspecting honesty and journalistic integrity to do so.

    John

    Streaming video from the Turkish ferry boat
    http://www.ihh.org.tr/rotamizfilistin-foto-galeri/en/

    and (witness gaza.com)

  9. mary said on May 29th, 2010 at 2:50am #

    Some hot air from Brussels on the matter.

    http://www.eubusiness.com/news-eu/mideast-conflict.4xr/

  10. mary said on May 29th, 2010 at 10:48am #

    Finally, a press release is issued from the Israeli PR department!

    http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/world/middle_east/10191106.stm

    Gaza hopes to welcome blockade-busting flotilla

    Page last updated at 15:56 GMT, Saturday, 29 May 2010 16:56 UK
    By Jon Donnison
    BBC News, Gaza City

    The UN says Israel does not allow enough food into Gaza

    Preparations are under way in Gaza to receive a convoy of ships that is trying to break Israel’s economic blockade of the Palestinian territory.

    The ships, carrying up to 10,000 tonnes of aid and human rights activists from around the world, will try to reach Gaza on Sunday.

    *Israel is adamant* it will not allow them into Gaza.

    The blockade was imposed in 2007 after the Islamist movement Hamas took power in Gaza.

    Over the past decade Hamas has fired thousands of rockets into Israel.

    ‘Cheap stunt’

    At the main port in Gaza City Hamas are preparing a welcoming party with marquees and a buffet to greet the 600-odd human rights activists on board the flotilla of ships.

    All the signs are, though, that they will not be allowed to set foot on dry land in Gaza.

    * Israelis have vowed* to stop the ships Israel which still still controls Gaza’s territorial waters says its Navy is prepared to use limited force to stop the ships.

    It says the boats will be diverted to the nearby Israeli city of Ashdod.

    There the government has set up a temporary passport control centre where Israel says the activists will be processed before being deported.

    *Israel has called* the flotilla “a cheap political stunt” and the government’s press officers have been working hard all week to brief journalists that it is unnecessary.

    *Israel says* it allows 15,000 tonnes of humanitarian aid into Gaza every week.

    But the UN says this is less than a quarter of what is needed.

    Construction materials are especially scarce and it is not uncommon to see Gazans sifting through rubble to recycle rocks for rebuilding buildings destroyed in last year’s major conflict with Israel.

    ~~~~~~~

    Note the emphasis on Israel’s intentions.
    Hamas did not ‘seize power’. It was democratically elected.
    The ceasefire was broken by Israel in 2008. The rockets had ceased.

  11. mary said on May 30th, 2010 at 4:22am #

    The flotilla is still waiting to leave from Cyprus. The Greek Cypriot govt. would not allow passengers to embark from Cyprus on to small boats to reach the large passenger boats. They have obviously been intimidated and leant on by exterior forces. In the end, the boats had to go round to the Turkish Cypriot port of Famagusta to load these passengers who included EU Members of Parliament.

    Two of the boats mysteriously developed mechanical problems at the same time and sabotage was suspected. They have now been repaired. So they are waiting to go having overcome these obstacles and facing whatever Israel throws at them. Brave people.

    This from two Brits this morning who are aboard the Turkish ferry.

    http://uk.groups.yahoo.com/group/Bristol-PSC/message/1700

  12. Mulga Mumblebrain said on May 31st, 2010 at 8:28am #

    Isn’t it amazing mary, how the ZBC produces ‘news’ reports that are almost a parody of Zionist lies and misrepresentation? Then this organisation of vicious creeps, gives itself a clean bill of health regarding bias. The bias is, in fact, so plain, so extreme that to deny it takes real chutzpah, which these Zionist Jews and Sabbat Goy stooges have in over-supply. As for Danby, he, in my opinion,is living proof of a favourite Zionist tactic.Danby comes across,I believe, to all unbiased opinion,as belligerent, slanderous and bullying, and that,I think,isdeliberate, designed to incite dislike and moral revulsion in decent people, which can then be labeled ‘eternal anti-semitism’ or ‘blood libel’ or some other Zionist trope.Yet when a grovelling toadie like the odious Sheridan describes him he becomes a great moral force. Of course ‘moral force’ here encompasses providing belligerent apologias for crimes against humanity including mass child murder,in Gaza and Lebanon, but the Orwellian reality of this world, controlled as it is by evil, Rightwing, psychopaths (forgive the redundancies) is such that Big Brother would look upon it with gob-smacked admiration.