In future, as newspaper fade and change, will politicians therefore burgle their opponents' offices with impunity, and corporate villains whoop as they trample over their victims？Journalism schools and think-tanks, especially in America, are worried about the effect of a crumbling Fourth Estate. Are today's news organizations up to the task of sustaining the informed citizenry on which democracy depends asked a recent report about newspapers from the Carnegie Corporation of New York, a charitable research foundation.
Nobody should relish the demise of once-great titles. But the decline of newspapers will not be as harmful to society as some fear. Democracy, remember, has already survived the huge television-led decline in circulation since the 1950s. It has survived as readers have shunned papers and papers have shunned what was in stuffier times thought of as serious news. And it will surely survive the decline to come.
That is partly because a few titles that invest in the kind of investigative stories which often benefit society the most are in a good position to survive, as long as their owners do a competent job of adjusting to changing circumstances. Publications like the New York Times and the Wall Street Journal should be able to put up the price of their journalism to compensate for advertising revenues lost to the internet——especially as they cater to a more global readership. As with many industries, it is those in the middle——neither highbrow, nor entertainingly populist——that are likeliest to fall by the wayside.
The usefulness of the press goes much wider than investigating abuses or even spreading general news; it lies in holding governments to account——trying them in the court of public opinion. The internet has expanded this court. Anyone looking for information has never been better equipped. People no longer have to trust a handful of national papers or, worse, their local city paper. News-aggregation sites such as Google News draw together sources from around the world. The website of Britain's Guardian now has nearly half as many readers in America as it does at home.
In addition, a new force of citizen journalists and bloggers is itching to hold politicians to account. The web has opened the closed world of professional editors and reporters to anyone with a keyboard and an internet connection. Several companies have been chastened by amateur postings——of flames erupting from Dell's laptops or of cable TV repairmen asleep on the sofa. Each blogger is capable of bias and slander, but, taken as a group, bloggers offer the searcher after truth boundless material to chew over. Of course, the internet panders to closed minds; but so has much of the press.
For hard-news reporting——as opposed to comment——the result of net journalism have admittedly been limited. Most bloggers operate from their armchairs, not the frontline, and citizen journalist tend to stick to local matters. But it is still early days. New online models will spring up as papers retreat. One non-profit group, New Assignment.Net, plans to combine the work of amateurs and professionals to produce investigative stories on the internet. Aptly, $10,000 of cash for the project has come from Craig Newmark, of Craigslist, a group of free classified-advertisement websites that has probably done more than anything to destroy newspapers' income.
In future, argues Carnegie, some high-quality journalism will also be backed by non-profit organizations. Already, a few respected news organizations sustain themselves that way——including the Guardian, the Christian Science Monitor and National Public Radio. An elite group of serious newspapers available everywhere online, independent journalism backed by charities, thousands of fired-up bloggers and well-informed citizen journalists： there is every sign that Arthur Miller's national conversation will be louder than ever.
将来，随着报纸的消失和变化，政客们会撬窃对手的办公室而不受惩罚吗？公司恶棍会欢呼着践踏受害者的权益吗？尤其是在美国，各个新闻学院和智囊机构对报业新闻消亡带来的后果忧心忡忡。慈善研究机构纽约Carnegie Corporation 最近一份关于报纸的报告质问：如今的新闻机构“是否能够完成向作为民主制度基石的公民提供全面信息的任务？”