Murdoch, The Daily, and Journalism as Art

“I do certainly see the day when more people will be buying their newspapers on portable reading panels than on crushed trees. Then we’re going to have no paper, no printing plants, no unions. It’s going to be great.”Rupert Murdoch, Sept. 14, 2009

“Thanks for the trial subscription, but so far, it is selling itself.”commenter on The Daily’s first edition

It was no gimmick that Rupert Murdoch’s The Daily was launched at the Guggenheim Museum in New York. After all, The Daily, a subscription-based iPad only “newspaper,” is less a marriage of technology and news than it is a work of news-as-art powered by technology.

Journalism has always been more of a subjective art form than a craft or trade — yet historically, the presentation of news has had all the beauty of a macaroni sculpture and functional efficacy of a rotary telephone.

That was fine when there were fewer ways for media companies to distribute the news and for the public to consume it. But in a world of endless choices, the medium matters more than ever. User experience becomes part of the story. Information becomes art.

And because art matters, the very rationale for a publication like The Daily to exist becomes even more subjective. Is it a newspaper or a new kind of “real time” magazine? Do stories with better visuals and interactive features have priority over stories with greater news value but fewer bells and whistles? Is the “art” of good writing less valuable to modern audiences than the “art” of video clips and 360-degree images?

My hope is that this convergence doesn’t become mere art for art’s sake. I hope that it will compel journalists to look at the news in different ways. I hope it lifts their art and drives them toward better journalism — for all the technology in the world is no substitute for a good story.

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