Life According to Krista

Feb 13

Jim Romenesko recently compiled two essays reviewing Richard Tofel’s e-essay, “Why American Newspapers Gave Away the Future”.

The first review, by Jeff Jarvis, complains that Tofel is wrong for wanting journalism to stay the same. Jarvis thinks that journalism is forever changing and needs to be able to grow. He is upset that Tofel wrote:

“it must follow that the decision to give away newspaper content was a mistake, that an alternative future in which nearly all newspapers sought to charge for content on the web, just as they had charged for it in print and on the online proprietary services, would quite likely have produced a happier outcome.”

Jarvis thinks that the online newspapers should continue to be free and the public should continue to have easy access to them.

He then writes that

“he [Tofel] gives much blame to the institutions’ proprietors, especially for killing their own efforts at innovation and collaboration.”

Jarvis does not like that Tofel seems to want the journalism companies to stifle progress and go back to focusing on money. He thinks that journalism is a very important tool of everyday life and that everyone should have equal access to it.

Jarvis ends by saying:

“I do recommend reading Tofel’s essay (it’s only $1.99) as, again, it is well-written and researched and smart and reasonable. But then I also urge you to take the assumptions made by the industry and reflected in it and question them.”

The next article critiquing Tofel’s essay is by Kirk Caraway, who begins his rationale by saying:

“While he does a good job of laying out these possible rationales, what he fails to do is offer any concrete evidence showing these actually led to the decisions by newspapers to publish their content free online.”

Caraway seems to believe there is not enough proof to say that the decline of newspapers is because of online journalism. He would have liked to have seen more proof in Tofel’s essay and concrete examples.

Caraway says that online newspapers cut the costs of making and distributing papers, which only increased profit margins. He believes the newspapers that give away their articles for free are smart and the ones that charge for information will not have much room for growth.

He ends his essay saying:

“After a lifetime in the business, it makes me sad to see newspapers going downhill. But I’m not going to let their troubles get in the way of my mission. We never know what the future will bring, but in a few years one of side in this debate will be telling the other, “I told you so.”

So far, I like my side’s chances.”

Caraway has faith that the online newspaper industry will only improve and become more used. He thinks Tofel needs to accept this so that he can progress with his peers.

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