To a statement that print media is rapidly shrinking, a statement made by well known American Sociologist Amitai Etzioni, I gave my elaborate answer in the negative. Read on.To a statement that the print media is rapidly shrinking, a statement made by wel
THE COMMUNITARIAN Network is a "non-partisan, transnational, not-for-profit network of Communitarians," formed in 1993 by well known sociologist Amitai Etzioni, who has served continuously as the Network’s director. The Communitarian Letter is part of this Network Communitarian Letter No. 21.
The print media is rapidly shrinking. People rely more and more on electronic media for news and analysis. At the current rate, there will be little printed news media left by 2020. However, compared to major print media – which has traditionally dedicated many resources to maintaining foreign correspondents as well as domestic ones – electronic media invests little to get news. Does this mean that the public will suffer from ever decreasing news? Or instead, will the public have to rely on publicly financed electronic media, such as the BBC and NPR, which allot sizable funds for correspondents? Do these media, in turn, have serious biases?
Communitarian Letter No.22 Feedback from Communitarian Letter No. 21
This is with reference to your apprehension of a shrinking print media and that at the present rate there will be little printed news media left by 2020. I am not sure about this. The issue also needs a lot more clarity. Though you have referred to news and analysis, as academics we need to spell out what we mean by print media in a discussion. If you are referring to newspapers and popular magazines I see the print media still going strong and think it will remain so. Here it is important to understand the underlying commercial caveat. That is, "if you want to access our website or for that matter e-paper or e-magazine you should be a subscriber to our print editions". That is a clever ploy and it seems to be working well. Though it is easy to read and store material from the electronic media, when one can have access to it only through subscription to the print edition, whether you read or not the printed paper or magazine is sold. This seems to be a fast evolving strategy on the part of the media managements.
I am not sure if you have noticed another trend, which should be disturbing to us as academics. Let me give an example. When I published my first book through Sage in 1989, it was reviewed in more than 30 journals published from different parts of the world. Sage was very prompt to send me the review copies. Now what I see from the Google
Search is most journals, which have gone digital cannot be accessed without an online subscription even to search their archives.
This is true of articles also.
To give an example, the Economic and Political Weekly published from Mumbai
in India, started in the 1950s or so, gained in popularity and circulation over the years, thanks to its dedicated editor Krishna Raj, who passed away a couple of years ago. Krishna Raj’s primary consideration was ensuring wide readership of the journal and getting quality articles, particularly from young scholars. He never spared persons like me when I called on him. He would persuade me go through one or two articles, tell him
their suitability for publication, and if possible get them edited by me. The journal was so cheap and affordable that because of its popularity many lay persons bought it from news stalls.
After his death the journal’s culture has changed. Instead of appointing a competent person comparable to Krishna Raj in calibre, commitment, and culture, as its editor, the Sameeksha Trust, which is running the journal appointed a person who had no proper exposure to academics and journal editing, and who is like the proverbial journeyman who persisted with the impudence of the apprentice without gaining the skill of the master! He was a in a newspaper, and carried his baggage of "cronyism" and "news-editing" to the journal, accepting for publication articles mostly from his known circle of friends. The journal is being digitized. Its price has already been doubled. Only those who are subscribers to the print edition will have access to the archives of the journal. I have about forty pieces in this journal. Now to read my own pieces from this journal I have to pay, though it should be the other way, that is, I get some royalty for every hit on my pieces.
This trend is spreading fast and needs discussion.
(The views expressed in this article are those of the author)