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Chan Lowe: The Internet without real news


The above cartoon is my contribution to a nationwide project called Net Needs News Day, conceived to remind people that, without traditional media organizations to gather and sift the news, the Internet with all its vaunted resources would consist of bloggers sitting around in their pajamas commenting on each others' Facebook postings.

Fellow members of my professional organization (yes, there is one), the Association of American Editorial Cartoonists, are drawing their own cartoons to be simultaneously published in newspapers this Sunday. Some cartoons will appear in their home papers, as this one will appear in the Sun Sentinel. To papers that do not have their own cartoonist, we are donating our cartoons so that they can receive wider readership.

This issue is a ticking bomb. At the moment, the specter of a newsless world is mostly the preoccupation of members of media organizations. The average Internet user, who has dropped his newspaper subscription and is accustomed to receiving his content for free, is slow to grasp that news gathering costs money, and that without all that expensively-acquired information, our democratic experiment could quite easily fail.

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Part of the decline for the "news" Media is the double standard used in reporting. When the media advocates for a particular politician, or policy it is editorializing, not presenting news. When the media articulates disdain, and treats as rubes, those who espouse differing viewpoints and values, then it deserves the disdain it receives when people refuse to spend their money to support the "illusions" of journalism. The Media will experience a resurgence when it goes back to the practice of asking the hard questions regardless of who holds the White House or Congress and earns the credibility that comes from being fair and honest.

If conventional news sources actually did any investigative reporting anymore, I might be sad at the potential loss. Instead all we get for news nowadays is a regurgitation of whatever the person in power says -- whether it's the President, the governor, the mayor, or even the policeman -- without question, and without even the slightest bit of checking into whether the statement is even true.

Where is this alternate universe you live in in which actual professional news media operate? How do I get there? I've just erased ABC Nightly News every day this week because the lead story has been about The Last Episode of Oprah every day. As near as I can tell, Woodward and Bernstein were the last reporters to ever dig up any information that didn't come from a press release. My best news source is just to turn everything off and simply imagine the worst :-).

Hey Chan for what it is worth I look to you, Julie, Brittany, Nicole, Ken, Julie, Mike, and the rest of the staff here for in depth commentary, but I feel that I "have to know where to look".
Some of this news is fluff and often the reader has questions when done reading the article. In the article about the 3 foot law for the cyclists, how about a link to the DOT site that illustrates the law? The astute reader here sometimes has to make up for what the article leaves out.

They say everything gets back to money, and the root of the issue is economic. Years ago news departments went from being status centers to profit centers, AND went into 24/7 mode. So we're getting more of less, or at least the same thing (of marginal quality as stated above) repeated. At this point there are people around that remember news not-for-profit and the difference in quality, but the longer the current situation continues, the more people will believe this is the way news is. The FCC did have a public service requirement at one point, but no more, nasty regulations don't you know? Regulations or no, news organizations have a responsibility and many are shirking it for the almighty dollar, to all of our detriment.

Great essay and cartoon. Thank you.

If the search engines, social media sites and aggregators (that get so much profit and value from original reporting generated by newspapers) paid for the news--then newspapers, magazines and television could afford to do more investigative reporting. It's become a vicious cycle. The less journalism outfits earn, the less important work they can do. And that's bad news for all of us.

Watch this video for more info:

I'm a former journalist, but still an avid follower of the news. It's so gratifying to see the nation's editorial cartoonists getting behind this campaign to make people aware that much of what they read on the Internet wouldn't exist without the source material: the stories brought to the public by hardworking reporters and editors trying to do the best they can with dwindling financial resources. Nice cartoon, Chan ... and I hope I don't see those black helicopters hovering.any time soon.

Bloggers and other such internet outlets are so popular because, in reality, they are not providing much less in the way of news services than the actual media outlets. Maybe if die-hard investigative journalism still existed, maybe if interviews with the biggest movers and shakers of our nation would consist of real no-holds-barred questions instead of fluffy softball conversations, maybe if we didn't have to sift through hours of American "news" consisting of who won American Idol and the latest stupid thing Charlie Sheen said to find 5 minutes of actual important global information, maybe if all of these factors were in play then you would not have to have projects and special days dedicated to reminding people that news exists outside of the internet. As of now, I see very little usefulness from dedicated (American) media outlets.

Really, Chan? I know cartoonists are meant to exaggerate, but this seems to me to be willfully ignorant of the actual state of affairs.

Its odd and ironic that you lay into YouTube, when some of the most important primary news sources are posting their content on that platform.

Its laughable that you suggest that the Internet is soley a place for frivolity when, as Tom says above, so much of the traditional outlets's newsspace is given over to fluff and irrelevance, and much of the stuff they publish or report is wire-copy and recycling of press releases.

That is not to say that poper newsgathering is not important: The checking and cross-checking of sources, the importance of setting a news story in context, etc. Its just that you are making a false conflation of 'traditional media organisations' (your formulation) with 'traditional news reporting'. They are not the same thing. In fact, they are increasingly becoming mutually exclusive.

Your cartoon is missing a third panel, which is where the two bloggers in their pajamas video the helicopters and post them to YouTube, something that the commercial organisations could not do even if they wanted to...

Instead of lecturing the public on why they are no longer buying the 'traditional media organisations' product, why not ask how the new technologies can be integrated into and revitalise the established news outlets. That is what will strengthen our democratic experiment, not sneers at the silly, outdated, pajamas cliche.

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About the author
Chan LoweCHAN LOWE has been the Sun Sentinel’s first and only editorial cartoonist for the past twenty-six years. Before that, he worked as cartoonist and writer for the Oklahoma City Times and the Shawnee (OK) News-Star.

Chan went to school in New York City, Los Angeles, and the U.K., and graduated from Williams College in 1975 with a degree in Art History. He also spent a year at Stanford University as a John S. Knight Journalism Fellow.

His work has won numerous awards, including the Green Eyeshade Award and the National Press Foundation Berryman Award. He has also been a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize. His cartoons have won multiple first-place awards in all of the Florida state journalism contests, and The Lowe-Down blog, which he began in 2008, has won writing awards from the Florida Press Club and the Society of Professional Journalists.
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