You’ve probably heard that traditional daily newspapers are in trouble. Newspapers have been laying off and buying out employees to cut costs. The Seattle Times Sunday and daily editions have shrunk significantly in recent weeks (the January 7 edition was reportedly 18 pages long), leaving Seattle residents wondering whether the paper will survive the year. The Tribune Co., which owns the Chicago Tribune, the Los Angeles Times, and the Baltimore Sun (among others), has filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection, although their papers aren’t going out of business — yet.
So it wasn’t a total surprise to read a column in the Atlantic suggesting that even the New York Times as we know it could disappear this year. Michael Hirschorn suggests that if this happened, a new, online version of the Times might look more like the Huffington Post, relying more on citizen-journalists/bloggers and news stories aggregated from other sources, and less on reporters employed by the Times. The problem with this, he says, is that it’s the traditional reporters who have the sources and reporting expertise, and it’s the traditional media who have the resources to send people around the world to report.
But what this really comes down to is trust. The sources are still out there, regardless of what happens to the newspapers and their reporters – but will those sources talk to journalists who aren’t attached to a major newspaper or television network? And will the public actually pay attention to and trust those journalists?
Trust will be essential to the future economy. We don’t have a lot of trust in our current economic system. We’ve seen companies and individuals lie, cheat and steal to make a profit, and we’ve seen the recent failures of banks and companies, both large and small.
The new question is, can we trust each other? In the media, can you trust your neighborhood blogger (and citizen journalists in other areas) to give you the news? In Seattle, neighborhood blogs like Capitol Hill Seattle, Central District News, and the West Seattle Blog are becoming primary news sources for many residents, even as the daily newspapers are declining. Justin Carder, owner of the Capitol Hill Seattle blog, has even put together a neighborhood blogging platform called Neighborlogs, which is currently in the beta-testing stage (disclaimer: I am one of the beta-testers). Carder sees Neighborlogs eventually being used in neighborhoods across the country.
Or, with food, can you trust your local farmer to provide safe, good-quality food for you and your family? Or do you feel you have to shop at a major supermarket?
In housing, can we trust each other enough to live together? Communal living is one way to provide safe, quality housing to more families and individuals.
And how can we develop this trust, so that we can work together to create a new world and a new economy?