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Modernization Is the Only Solution

25 August 2017
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Ala Mandacanu
Montreal, Canada

In recent years we have been witnessing a decline of print media in favor of online outlets. News coming from social media, news agencies, and all kinds of websites overwhelm us with their abundance without giving us the guarantee of objective, truthful, and complete information in return.

Below, we will try to indicate, as much as possible and within the limits of the space given, the reasons for this state of affairs and future prospects not only of print media, but also of the circulation of information in general.
In a recent commentary on the Media Azi website, “Media Capture: Local Issues in a Global Context,” Olivia Pirtac has named several causes of the “near death of journalism.” According to her, the main reason for the decline of journalism is the economic one, i.e. money. “There are three sources that can pay for journalism: the government or the interested persons; the market (advertising); and people directly. Journalism paid by the market or directly by people is more likely to remain independent. However, the media market constantly changes to the disadvantage of journalism: today, Facebook and Google make more money from advertising than all media from the entire world together.”

I agree with Olivia. But I would like to ask: WHY do Facebook and Google make more money than all media from the entire world?
Do you really believe that the money is the only thing that decides the fate of newspapers?

I will give several examples, which, I hope, will help us understand why print media no longer make money.
Here are some suggestive headlines. In 2016: "The Independent becomes the first national newspaper to embrace a global, digital-only future." I never heard of The Independent being on the brink of bankruptcy. So there must be a different reason…
Or, in 2011: “Gandul [Romanian newspaper] gives up print from April, 8 to become an ‘exclusively digital media product.’ C. T. Popescu: ‘All-purpose’ print newspapers are passing into history.”Or: “In 2009, Publimedia announced that its local newspapers will remain online only. They have become extensions to gandul.info. At the end of the year, Cotidianul [newspaper] gave up its print version and remained online only, and Business Standard newspaper’s website, liquidated around the same time, turned into a blogs platform.”

In other words, the “digitization” of the press began several years ago, and this development was not determined by purely economic reasons. To better understand the situation, maybe we should listen to scientists. For example, among the works of some Ph.D. students in journalism I found an interesting study. The work is called “Newsreaders’ Recall and Engagement with Online and Print Newspapers,” and its authors are several young researchers from the University of Oregon (Arthur D. Santana, Randall Livingstone, and Yoon Cho University of Oregon, School of Journalism and Communication 2011).Here is what they claim: “… At the end of 2010, the Pew Research Center’s Project for Excellence in Journalism found that for the first time, more people got their news from the Internet than from newspapers.”

That is, already back in 2010 (!) consumers had changed their profile. They make their own choice of where to search for the information they are interested in, and they find that the Internet offers the best solution. They themselves decide what sites to access, which of them to consider reliable, and which of them provide solutions.

It seems to me that our discussions about freedom of the press lack one important thing, MODERNITY, which should be taken into account in economy, politics, as well as in the circulation of information. (...)

Which of the members of the government, the parliament, or the presidential administration have an articulate discourse about the modernization of Moldova, proposing clear evolutionary or revolutionary ideas?

How many of the present-day journalists consequently promote the idea of modernizing the contemporary society, from family and civil society to politics?

I would be happy to see conclusive examples and tangible results in today's society.However, we find regretfully that manipulation promoted by some radio and television channels, websites, and social networking services, as well as negativity and intolerance there, efficiently realize a thought-out and dishonest purpose: to hold us apart from Europe, modernity, democracy, and freedom. (…)

I have the impression that the Moldavian society in general, and journalism in particular, have not evolved much in the 25 years of the so-called independence. The village and the city, the farmer and the citizen have not yet, unfortunately, abandoned the old, patriarchal mentality, nor do they show signs that this may happen soon.

Hence the infinite transition, from which there seems to be no way out, when neither simple people, whether at home or abroad, nor intellectuals, journalists, or politicians actually understand where they come from, where they are, or where they are going…
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The article was published within the Advocacy Campaigns Aimed at Improving Transparency of Media Ownership, Access to Information and promotion of EU values  and integration project, implemented by the IJC, which is, in its turn, part of the Moldova Partnerships for Sustainable Civil Society project, implemented by FHI 360.
This article is made possible by the generous support of the American people through the United States Agency for International Development (USAID). The content are the responsibility of author and do not necessarily reflect the views of USAID or the United States Government.