People need to realise that they have a civic responsibility towards reading newspapers and learning what's happening in the world. I think it's important to remind ourselves that a world without serious coverage of news is one where citizenship itself is undermined because how are we supposed to know what's happening in the world?
Do you think that could really happen? Won't they find new ways of making money?
That's an optimistic way of looking at it, but it's possible in America that they're disappearing. Newspapers are starting to shut: my local newspaper the San Francisco Chronicle just laid off 25 per cent of its staff. The New York Times is in trouble; certainly the newspaper model is in crisis and that's partly due to sites like Craigslist that give away adverts, which is one of the key revenue streams.
So I'm not as optimistic about this. I'm always being told that I'm a pessimist, and it has always happened in the past that whenever there's a change people complain, but that's not an argument because you can't believe that there'll inevitably be solutions to these problems. And you can't assume that because media has worked itself out in the past that it will this time around.
You've said that Web 2.0 is The Great Seduction.
It's very seductive, that's why I've written with such passion because I don't want it to be seductive. My book is an antidote - it's a way to say, "Hey, wait a minute, this is not as great as everyone's saying." We need to remember what we're doing here and what the consequences are, unintended or otherwise, on our valuable institutions, on our mainstream media and on our time.
We're being seduced into creating an inane, chaotic and indulgent culture in which we trivialise ourselves and everything around us. I think that much of mainstream media has this problem itself: it's fallen under the spell of the cult of the amateur.
We have reality TV, call-in radio and so on, where you're doing away with the professional actor, the broadcaster, the professional, and just listening to ourselves. We're dumbing down everything. Media that's about you appeals to you - it's very seductive.
The problem with responsible media is that it isn't particularly seductive. It requires effort, you've got to think about it, it doesn't provide simple, packaged answers, so it's a question of self-discipline. And unfortunately, for one reason or another people aren't willing to invest that kind of effort. They want media to be an escape.
What would you say to those people who argue that all of this is inevitable?
Well I don't like that. I think we need to remind ourselves that technology is created by human beings, that we manage it, that we're in charge and that if it really is wrecking some of our culture - as I'm suggesting it is - then we need to push back. We need to address it and shape it in a way that we want it to be.
Words: Tanya Combrinck
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