Last week a reporter from Argentina’s Clarin asked me what I thought about the French government’s plan to spend $22.5 million over three years to give 18-24 year-olds a free, yearlong subscription to a newspaper of their choice. The biggest problem of many that I see with this plan is that it doesn’t address the true issue with news consumption among young people. Here’s what I’d do with $22.5 million to invest in the future of news — sponsor a grant competition for people 18-24 to conceptualize and create solutions to their peer’s lack of interest in current affairs.
Alejandro Alfie, a reporter at Argentina’s Clarin newspaper, had done his homework before he interviewed me there last week. Toward the end of a long interview during which I pontificated broadly about the future of news, he wondered what it might say about the future of online news if it is being espoused by someone who hadn’t updated his blog in about five months.
Chagrined, I told him I thought my disappearance provided a good anecdote about the potential future of news — many people will start blogs because it is easy to do. But few will provide the day-after-day reliable coverage that societies need to remain informed and that media businesses need to remain viable.
Perhaps professional journalists will be a bit like firefighters. Citizens may not pay much attention to them most of the time, but we’ll need to find a way to pay them just in case disaster strikes.