日期:2011-07-19 10:47


The future of news新闻产业的未来

Back to the coffee house重回咖啡屋时代

The internet is taking the news industry back to the conversational culture of the era before mass media


THREE hundred years ago news travelled by word of mouth or letter, and circulated in taverns and coffee houses in the form of pamphlets, newsletters and broadsides. “The Coffee houses particularly are very commodious for a free Conversation, and for reading at an easie Rate all manner of printed News,” noted one observer. Everything changed in 1833 when the first mass-audience newspaper, the New York Sun, pioneered the use of advertising to reduce the cost of news, thus giving advertisers access to a wider audience. At the time of the launch America’s bestselling paper sold just 4,500 copies a day; the Sun, with its steam press, soon reached 15,000. The penny press, followed by radio and television, turned news from a two-way conversation into a one-way broadcast, with a relatively small number of firms controlling the media.


Now, as our special report explains, the news industry is returning to something closer to the coffee house. The internet is making news more participatory, social, diverse and partisan, reviving the discursive ethos of the era before mass media. That will have profound effects on society and politics.


Going West
In much of the world, the mass media are flourishing. Newspaper circulation rose globally by 6% between 2005 and 2009, helped by particularly strong demand in places like India, where 110m papers are now sold daily. But those global figures mask a sharp decline in readership in rich countries.


Over the past decade, throughout the Western world, people have been giving up newspapers and TV news and keeping up with events in profoundly different ways. Most strikingly, ordinary people are increasingly involved in compiling, sharing, filtering, discussing and distributing news. Twitter lets people anywhere report what they are seeing. Classified documents are published in their thousands online. Mobile-phone footage of Arab uprisings and American tornadoes is posted on social-networking sites and shown on television newscasts. An amateur video taken during the Japanese earthquake has been watched 15m times on YouTube. “Crowdsourcing” projects bring readers and journalists together to sift through troves of documents, from the expense claims of British politicians to Sarah Palin’s e-mails. Social-networking sites help people find, discuss and share news with their friends.

过去十年整个西方世界中,人们逐渐放弃报纸和电视,而是通过其它的方式与时俱进。更引人著目的是更多的普通民众参与到新闻的收集、分享、筛选和讨论中。推特使人们可以随时随地将他们的所见所闻相互分享。各种各样的文件被无数在线用户上传。手机拍客们拍摄的阿拉伯暴乱以及美国龙卷风的视频和照片在社交网络中广泛传播并且为电视报道所引用。YouTube上一部摄于日本地震期间的相关视频被浏览一千五百万次。“众包”将读者与记者紧密联系在了一起,共同处理各种新闻文件,从英国政客的消费声明到Sarah Palin的邮件。社交网络为人们与好友之间寻找、讨论和分享新闻提供了平台。

And it is not just readers who are challenging the media elite. Technology firms including Google, Facebook and Twitter have become important (some say too important) conduits of news. Celebrities and world leaders, including Barack Obama and Hugo Chávez, publish updates directly via social networks; many countries now make raw data available through “open government” initiatives. The internet lets people read newspapers or watch television channels from around the world: the Guardian, a British newspaper, now has more online readers abroad than at home. The web has allowed new providers of news, from individual bloggers to sites such as the Huffington Post, to rise to prominence in a very short space of time. And it has made possible entirely new approaches to journalism, such as that practised by WikiLeaks, which provides an anonymous way for whistleblowers to publish documents. The news agenda is no longer controlled by a few press barons and state outlets, like the BBC.

不仅仅是读者在向传统传媒发起挑战。包括谷歌、脸谱、Twitter在内的科技公司也逐渐成为新闻传播的重要渠道。包括奥巴马在内的许多名流和政要通过社交网络公布他们的实时动态。互联网打破了人们阅读报纸及收看电视频道的地域限制:the Grardian, 一份英国报纸,现在较其本土读者有更多的网上读者。从博客到类似Huffington Post的网站,互联网使更多人成为新闻的可能提供者,在很短时间内就获得大量关注。互联网也为新闻的发布提供了一种全新的可能,正如维基解密所做的那样,为揭密者提供匿名发布信息的平台。新闻媒体再也不会为少数传媒巨头或部分政府部门所控制,就像BBC。

We contort, you deride
In principle, every liberal should celebrate this. A more participatory and social news environment, with a remarkable diversity and range of news sources, is a good thing. A Texan who once had to rely on the Houston Chronicle to interpret the world can now collect information from myriad different sources. Authoritarian rulers everywhere have more to fear. So what, many will say, if journalists have less stable careers? All the same, two areas of concern stand out.

原则上来说,每个自由主义人士都应该为此庆祝。一个更具有参与性与社会性的新闻环境,一个更加集思广益、百家争鸣的新闻环境是值得庆祝的。德克萨斯人曾经必须依靠Houston Chronicle来与外界保持联系,但现在却可以通过无数的渠道得到他们想要的消息。专治统治者忧心忡忡。但也有很多人发问,这会不会对记者这个职业产生冲击呢?同样引起关注的还有两点。

The first worry is the loss of “accountability journalism”, which holds the powerful to account. Shrinking revenues have reduced the amount and quality of investigative and local political reporting in the print press.


But old-style journalism was never quite as morally upstanding as journalists like to think. Indeed, the News of the World, a British newspaper which has been caught hacking into people’s mobile phones, is a very traditional sort of scandal sheet (see article). Meantime, the internet is spawning new forms of accountability. A growing band of non-profit outfits such as ProPublica, the Sunlight Foundation and WikiLeaks are helping to fill the gap left by the decline of watchdog media. This is still a work in progress, but the degree of activity and experimentation provides cause for optimism.

但传统传媒却并不总是像记者所想像的一样高尚。世界新闻报,一份英国报纸,被指证窃听人们的手机,这是非常普遍的丑闻之一。同时,互联网正在传播一种新的责任形式。一些个还在增加的非盈利组织,像Propublica, the Sunlight Foundation and wikiLeaks,正在帮助减小由于watchdog media下降带来的断带。这是一项仍未完成的任务,但是活动和实验的程度为乐观主义者提供了信心。

The second concern has to do with partisanship. In the mass-media era local monopolies often had to be relatively impartial to maximise their appeal to readers and advertisers. In a more competitive world the money seems to be in creating an echo chamber for people’s prejudices: thus Fox News, a conservative American cable-news channel, makes more profits than its less strident rivals, CNN and MSNBC, combined.

第二个值得关注的就是党派性。在大众传媒时代,地方寡头必须保持相对的公正性以吸引读者和赞助商。在一个更具有竞争性的世界中,金钱似乎正在为偏见提供肥沃的土壤:就像Fox News,一家美国保守派有线新闻电视台,比没有它言语犀利的两家CNN和MSNBC合起来赚得还要多。

In one way the increasing availability of partisan news is to be welcomed. In the past many people—especially right-wing Americans, since most American television was left-leaning—had nothing to watch that reflected their views. But as news is becoming more opinionated, both politics and the facts are suffering: witness some American conservatives’ insistence that Barack Obama was born outside America, and others’ refusal to accept that taxes must rise (see article).


What is to be done? At a societal level, not much. The transformation of the news business is unstoppable, and attempts to reverse it are doomed to failure. But there are steps individuals can take to mitigate these worries. As producers of new journalism, they can be scrupulous with facts and transparent with their sources. As consumers, they can be catholic in their tastes and demanding in their standards. And although this transformation does raise concerns, there is much to celebrate in the noisy, diverse, vociferous, argumentative and stridently alive environment of the news business in the age of the internet. The coffee house is back. Enjoy it.


  • argumentativeadj. 爱争论的,好辩论的
  • insistencen. 坚持,强调,坚决主张
  • anonymousadj. 匿名的,无名的,没特色的
  • rangen. 范围,行列,射程,山脉,一系列 v. 排列,归类于
  • transformationn. 转型,转化,改造
  • eliten. 精华,精锐,中坚份子
  • availableadj. 可用的,可得到的,有用的,有效的
  • earthquaken. 地震
  • qualityn. 品质,特质,才能 adj. 高品质的
  • competitiveadj. 竞争的,比赛的