This is a final follow up on my recent critique of newspapers and journalism. I hope my opinions on this subject have been valuable and constructive, as I truly value what good journalism provides for a free democracy.
In his closing remarks to the NAA, Eric Schmidt, CEO of Google expressed an exciting optimism for journalism that no longer seems present within the newspaper industry.
Beginning at 36:16 in the video (embedded below) he paraphrased Tocqueville’s America from 1831:
America will do well because of its sunny optimism, abundance of land and absence of a king.
He follows with his own interpretation applied to the current situation:
When I think today, I think same thing is still true; the political dynamic, the enormous resources that we have, the ingenuity of our people; the sum of all that I think creates a next set of opportunities.
For us to seize, for us to take, for us to build businesses on top of.
From my perspective we have to embrace what users want together, and by doing that I think we can win big.
Newspaper executives remind me a lot of the music industry, Netscape and Microsoft and run a great risk of being doomed not by Google, but instead by a new innovative idea for distributing quality journalism.
“The basis of our governments being the opinion of the people, the very first object should be to keep that right; and were it left to me to decide whether we should have a government without newspapers or newspapers without a government, I should not hesitate a moment to prefer the latter.”
Based on some of the quotes below, my opinion is that Jefferson was not tied to the medium itself, and if he was alive today, might have replaced the word newspapers with the Internet in the above statement.
“Nothing can now be believed which is seen in a newspaper. Truth itself becomes suspicious by being put into that polluted vehicle. The real extent of this state of misinformation is known only to those who are in situations to confront facts within their knowledge with the lies of the day.” –Thomas Jefferson to John Norvell, 1807. ME 11:224
“As for what is not true, you will always find abundance in the newspapers.” –Thomas Jefferson to Barnabas Bidwell, 1806. ME 11:118
“From forty years’ experience of the wretched guess-work of the newspapers of what is not done in open daylight, and of their falsehood even as to that, I rarely think them worth reading, and almost never worth notice.” –Thomas Jefferson to James Monroe, 1816. ME 14:430
“Advertisements… contain the only truths to be relied on in a newspaper.” –Thomas Jefferson to Nathaniel Macon, 1819. ME 15:179
These statements illustrate Jefferson’s displeasure with the quality of journalism found in newspapers over just a short period of time in American History
What would his opinion be today?
What would Jefferson think of Schmidt’s comment about a next set of opportunities being created?