With exciting developments in technology and new media, such as Apple‘s announcement about iCloud, the possibilities are truly dazzling for creating content across multiple platforms. I’ve been writing for print, broadcast, and online (and currently creating for page and screen) since the 1980s and I have never been more optimistic about the future of the arts, including journalism.
As I’ve previously observed, there is the ominous threat of government control of the press. Whether a newspaper already heavily influenced by powerful Mormons hires a top government official to write a regular column, as recently happened in Utah, or top reporters flee journalism to work for government, as recently happened in Oregon, separation of government and the press (like separation of government and religion or government and business) is rapidly eroding. Today’s media is plastered with government bureaucrats or former politicians: shrill Chris Matthews and smarmy Lawrence O’Donnell on MSNBC, CNN’s sleazy Eliot Spitzer, and the parade of clowns on FoxNews that’s like a festival of 20th century fools, from Mike Huckabee and Newt Gingrich to Karl Rove and Sarah Palin. None honored the United States of America while in government and none have anything new and original, much less rational, to say. They represent the failed past and suggest a dark future of government-controlled media and a state of de facto censorship, whether from the left or from the right.
Companies such as Apple are changing how we produce and consume news and information in ways which may make it harder to establish a centralized press and easier to escape government controls. Apple’s new operating system for the iPhone and iPad, iOS 5, will make creating a digital newsstand more desirable, according to this media post. This Mashable piece observes that Apple’s new favorite social media, Twitter, counters Microsoft’s relationship with Facebook, and offers real market competition, which makes it harder for the state to insidiously control or seize the media. Google is reportedly now supporting certain tags which may encourage people to read work by individual writers and discourage stealing writers’ content. The New York Observer is remaking its print and online editions to feature longer articles, unveiling its new Web site tomorrow. Of course, the Observer is liberal, and some changes may also make it easier to disrupt and censor the press in certain cases, a legitimate concern given the nation’s trend toward total government control.
But opportunities exist for those willing to discover, explore, and create challenging new voices for reason and means of distribution, though Rupert Murdoch’s heavily hyped The Daily, dubbed the first magazine application for the iPad and apparently managed mostly by former New York Times staffers, which may explain why no one wants to read, let alone pay for, its content, is not likely to be one of them (incidentally, I have ideas for creating an organ of objective journalism if anyone serious is interested). To preserve a free press and the freedom of speech, we need the innovations of visionary businessmen such as Steve Jobs, who was greeted by an ovation for being a man of ability during his speech yesterday. People must be free to nurture the spirit of enterprise that is integral to restoring the lost art of objective communication.
News Corporation’s The Daily may fail, but at least Rupert Murdoch, like former Atari video game creator Steve Jobs and Polaroid’s Edwin Land, are using what freedom we have left to manufacture technology so we can choose what to produce and consume to improve our lives. In this sense, media entrepreneurs deserve our admiration and support.