At a time when traditional journalism is being compromised (being gentle), Silicon Valley investors are swooping in with wads of cash to rescue journalism as we know it. Kinda funny, when you consider that almost certainly played a role in endangering the business of news making. So why is this community so interested in preserving journalism? At the New York Times this week David Carr took a look at why this is now happening.
Jeff Bezos, the founder of Amazon, dropped $250 million to acquire The Washington Post. And eBay’s founder, Pierre Omidyar spent the same amount to form a news site conceived by Glenn Greenwald, Edward Snowden’s best buddy and now a former reporter at The Guardian. According to Carr, “…the trend is clear: quality news has become, if not sexy, suddenly attractive to smart digital money.” And while Amazon and eBay are great recent examples, others have paved the way: including Laurene Powell Jobs, the widow of Steve Jobs, who invested in Ozy Media and Chris Hughes from Facebook, who purchased The New Republic.
What remains unclear is whether or not these investments are really intended to save citizens from the perils of decaying Journalism. What is clear is that most consumers have a deeper connection to journalism when it comes to news that they trust. After all, there is a noticeable divide between social-media-driven information and quality news content. So, while traditional news channels have changed over time, the eminence of content and engaging storytelling has not. So entrepreneurial titans are asking themselves “why not own the engagement?”
Despite speculation of the business benefits of intellectual capital, power brokers of Silicon Valley contend that the investments are designed to preserve true journalism. However, remaining true to journalism becomes increasingly difficult as more news organizations fall under the auspices of big business.
According to The Pew Research Center, which interviewed journalists around the country to develop core principles of journalism, “…the commitment to citizens first is the basis of a news organization’s credibility – the implied covenant that tells the audience the coverage is not slanted for friends or advertisers.”
These core principles also include independence as an underlying requirement of journalism and a cornerstone of its reliability. In other words, a journalist must serve as an independent monitor of power.
What’s most intriguing is a core principle that ties back to transparency marketing: journalism must provide a forum for public criticism and compromise. So, a less than flattering news article about eBay on the very publication that it owns should, in theory, be considered OK. Will it be?
As we continue to see more digital companies purchase news publications, we will likely experience an entirely new shift in journalism.
Will we still trust it?