Journalists spend a lot of time worrying about the decline of print journalism. What this really means, of course, is that print is evolving, not dying. In a world where the act of knitting can become hot, hot, hot, it seems premature to declare the death of journalism that you read yourself rather than having someone else read it to you.
One piece of the evolution is the end of objectivity. Chris Anderson describes objectivity as a product of scarcity. If a community has very few sources of information (a paper, a few television channels, a radio station or two) then those sources are obliged to be objective, if only from a business standpoint. In contrast to the U.S., English newspapers have always been national, not local. Papers distinguish themselves by taking sides.
Since news is now a commodity, Anderson suggests that aggregators differentiate themselves in the marketplace not just via opinion and partisanship but through sensibility and worldview. He breaks down the difference like this..."sensibility" would be The New Yorker, Maxim and MTV-if you are this kind of person, you'll like this kind of information. "Worldview" is more like a lens for viewing the world, often expressed as an "-ism"...enviromentalism, libertarianism, etc.
This seems intuitively correct. A mass media produces "Happy Days" while narrowcasting can produce "Straight Eye for the Queer Guy"; why should news be any different? Make a liberal FOX News, an enviromental Rush Limbaugh, etc.
This is a long-ass post but I have one other idea to pass along. Cass Sunstein thinks that all this fragmentation is a bad idea. "For democracy to work, people must be exposed to topics and ideas they would not have chosen in advance." says Sunstein.
The essay is, like everything he writes, sharp and well-reasoned. He ends it with this sentence:
The task for the future is to find ways to ensure that the Internet reduces, and does not increase, the risk of social fragmentation.
Fragmentation: hot or not?