The exposure of MP's expense claims has been a triumph for the Telegraph newspaper. The story is one of the most important that has appeared in recent years. It is also a clear demonstration that bloggers cannot replace journalists.
For a start, bloggers do not have the resources to handle such stories. I understand that the Telegraph has twenty five journalists working full time on the story. There are two million PDF documents that have to be analysed and then double checked.
In addition, the journalists have been able to publish their stories because of the support of the newspapers legal team and the backing of the Telegraph's financial resources. What blogger would have the nerve to publish some of the material that has been appearing in the Telegraph? Especially not with the libel laws we have in Britain.
Newsprint may be dying but we are still going to need professional journalists and news organisations. We just need to find some way of paying them.
I will not be sorry to see newsprint disappear. The technology had too many limitations. Electronically delivered news and comment is much better. For example, electronic news can
- include video, audio and graphics. The NY Times has been particularly good at producing informative graphics.
- be sold worldwide at no extra cost. For example, British e-news can be sold to our large expatriate community.
- can include links to other content. The BBC is very good at linking to their own past stories and external sources.
- can include unlimited large high quality pictures. For example, see The Big Picture and The Frame.
- use archived material. No longer is yesterdays news just chip wrapping paper. It can be commercially exploited for years. It is often conveniently forgotten that while electronic news has reduced some revenue streams, it has also eliminated some costs and created new sources of reenue.
- eliminates paper, printing and delivery costs.
- provide much better management information. Editors can see what people are actually reading.
There are many other advantages. At the moment newsprint is more portable. As electronic paper improves even this advantage will disappear.
Though we need news organisations, we do not need as many as at present. Many newspapers have little social or political value. Who would miss the Sun or the Mirror if they disappeared? Many local newspapers have just been exploiting their local monopoly to overcharge for advertising. Who needs them?
The market will settle the question on newspaper survival. Many will go under and most of those will not be missed. The ones that best adapt to the new technology, provide quality journalism and develop a viable business model will survive.