Gagne de la cryptomonnaie GRATUITE en 5 clics et aide institut numérique à propager la connaissance universitaire >> CLIQUEZ ICI <<

5.3. Defining quality of information’s evolution the since the emergence of new media

Non classé

This theme is central in the debate on influence between newspapers and new media. As stated in chapter three, the press plays an important role in the democratic debate in Switzerland.

This role is significant because some newspapers offer quality content to help the forming of public opinion. Of course not all newspapers offer quality content but those that do are helpful. But the format of these contents should not be the focus. The main point is the quality of the contents that are offered to the public.

Without quality contents most people are not able to understand the political issues of the country. It is the work of journalists to convey information in a way that is comprehensible for the majority:

“The job of the journalists is to identify problems and then research them, verify what they discover or what they are told, organize the questions into a hierarchy, put them in perspective, situate them in their context and expose them more clearly and honestly possible. This work gives sense to the accumulation of information that comes every day, as seen on the Internet.” Poulet, p. 70-71

Bernard Poulet adds that without that effort to organize information, the democratic debate becomes impossible(39). Nowadays the problem is amplified by the fact that there is such a huge amount of communications flows in the citizens‟ lives as Denis Huisman explains:

“Today we can notice that it is mainly through communication flows that the weight of this bureaucratic framing falls on individuals. In sum there are overwhelmed by such a large amount of messages that not only they cannot receive and understand all of them but it becomes even difficult to make a choice amongst them.” Huisman, p.134-135

Quality in the media is then a vital point of every democracy. The next step is to define if the emergence of new media has had consequences on it or not for the media landscape in Switzerland.

Two arguments can be made in this discussion. The first is that quality has lowered. A study by the University of Zürich pretends that this is in fact true in Switzerland4(0).

The study has been conducted on two levels. The first is the analysis of the coverage by the media in Switzerland. The infrastructure of the information media is an essential public utility. Depending on the state of these infrastructures, quality requirements that are necessary to the smooth functioning of the community can be fulfilled or not. That is why the study examines the characteristics and the changes in the cover by the media. The second level is the contents of the principal media titles of every category (press, radio, television and online media). For the present work, the categories that are interesting are obviously the press and the online media. The quality of the contents is then looked at. The quality is examined through four dimensions:

diversity, importance, topicality and professionalism. Those four elements are standard requirements of public communication. This second level of the study is more central to the debate of this part of the paper, but it is still useful to look at the first one as well.

As it is known the Swiss media landscape is really changing right now. First of all are the online channels that draw attention away from the other media. Secondly a culture of the everything-free has developed over the years, where everybody expects to have information without having to pay. And finally due the tough economical state the information media has deteriorated. These factors have consequences. The subscription newspapers are losing customers and revenues a little more every year. People do not realize anymore that journalism has a cost.

The study shows that subjects like important and complicated legislative processes and the examination of international and economic politics are mostly covered by public radio and subscription newspapers.

On the other hand free and sensationalist newspapers and online media focus more on subjects with a human dimension. The diversity and the significance of the subjects are then limited and the function of forum on important matters is only partially fulfilled.

In a time of globalization, the observation of aspects of the world is slowly decreasing to national and regional subjects. New media and free newspapers treat international news only through agencies telegrams. The graphic below illustrates this:

Amount of political news (international, national and regional) in the Swiss press, radio and television from 2001 to 2009

Figure 17 Analyzing the influence of new media on newspapers businesses in Switzerland, the role of the government and the future of both media
These are some of the examples shown by the study that the general quality of the media coverage in Switzerland is decreasing. It assesses that there is progress of the low quality media due to the fact that free press and online media will continue their increase at the expense of the subscription press because the young generations are immersed in a culture where information is free.

The second level concerns the contents of the particular types of media. As stated only the press and the online media will be discussed. The study says that newspapers are the media in Switzerland that cover the widest variety of subjects that are important. But there are economic problems with newspapers that are not free and they are not profitable anymore. Those problems reinforce the concentration dynamics in the press and they were already strong in the sector.

There are a lot of diverse manifestations that can be inputted to crisis of the press. For instance the intensification of soft news that cost less to produce or the purchase more frequent of precooked contents. Due to these phenomenon the traditional press answers always more to the entertainment of media consumers rather the information needs of the citizens. Newspapers like NZZ, Le Temps, Tages-Anzeiger and Bund are the few examples that do not apply to this tendency.

The study argues that the difference of quality is big between subscription newspapers that are regional and those that are supra-regional. The regional newspapers follow a trend that goes towards regionalization and sensationalism. This means more articles on everyday life, advices and entertainment. The logical consequence is that there is political reporting, less economy and less culture.

Those are the problems reported by the study concerning newspapers in Switzerland. The same methodology has been used to analyze the online media. Typical aspects of the online media are reduced diversity and topicality as well as selection, presentation and interpretation logic that is very strongly dictated by the events. They depend very much of the news twenty-four hours a day. News sites that are free cannot offer quality contents otherwise they could not survive financially. The problem is that people go on these websites that offer news for free and then they do not feel the need of buying subscription newspapers anymore.

There are subjects that are more treated in the online media, like sports and human interest. Diversity of subjects is deeply limited. The users that go on such websites do not receive explanations for the events that come and go at a dazzling speed.

The study points out that the constant arrival of information and the limited budget are recurring problems for the information contents online. So overall a negative view of the evolution of the quality in general in Switzerland for newspapers and new media as well.

The general assessment of the research by the University of Zürich is that the quality has lowered in Switzerland. It should be noted that this is not the end of the road for that study, because it will work as a barometer. This means that every year they will analyze the titles of their sample and adapt the results. But the outcome of these findings did not please everybody. Presse Suisse is the editors‟ organization of print press in Romandy. Its general secretary, Daniel Hammer, reacted to these results. He believes they are not entirely right.

The first problem Daniel Hammer has with the study is first of all its objectivity. He says that it did not start on a neutral basis. He thinks that the researchers began with the postulate “the quality is reducing and we will prove it”. Another criticism he addresses to the research is that their sample was not global. For instance they analyzed twenty-two newspapers in Switzerland and the country has a lot more titles than that. Those were his remarks on the study itself.

Daniel Hammer addressed the question of the quality as well. He believes the diversity of titles is bigger now that it was thirty years ago. Then the readers had two or three newspapers titles to choose from. That is because the rest of the press belonged to special-interest groups, like religious or political ones. The press was much more oriented then and readers were influenced. That type of press is almost gone nowadays and readers have lots of choice in the traditional press, with different points of views. Daniel Hammer adds that it is in the interest of the editors to offer content that is of good quality. If they are able to do so the readers will continue to buy the products. He considers that the competition between the numerous newspapers in Switzerland promotes quality contents.

Daniel Hammer continues by saying that free does not mean inevitably low quality. There are some news sites that are accessible for free but with great contents. It is the case for for instance.

Journalists that worked in the print press created that site and now it has become very popular. This is a good example of free content that has great quality. In the study by the University of Zürich free rhymed with low quality. An extra argument of the general secretary is that free contents do not have the same scope as paying contents. A reader will maybe not try to understand an initiative with the help of 20 Minutes. But he can read it quickly to be informed on what is going on and then turn to subscription press later to have better explanations.

Daniel Hammer draws some good points that are totally valid. But in an overall view of the media landscape it must be admitted that the quality in the media has fallen since the emergence of new media. This is not the case for many subscription newspapers though. A quick observation to make that point of lowering quality: people now expect information for free. It can be in the free press, like 20 Minuten that has become the most read newspaper in Switzerland. Or it can be on the Internet, where countless sources of information are available to the public. Even the subscription newspapers offer a large part of their contents for free on-line. It must be said that this assertion is changing, because now some newspapers offer the articles of the print version on-line only with a subscription. It is the case of the NZZ for instance which has a paying e-paper42. Le Temps recently changed its business model as well so contents have to be paid for online too43. And other titles are following that trend. But there are still some newspapers that give away their contents without any financial return. On the other hand the newspapers that were cited before, Le Temps and NZZ offer contents that are of great quality. The problem is that they are a minority in Switzerland. This has to change in order refocus on contents that help the democratic debate. People that did not read before these free contents arrived may read now. This is positive, in particular for newspapers. The problem is that these readers are growing accustomed to low quality contents and they are satisfied by them. The young generation in particular is not interested anymore by vital components of the democracy. This view of the media landscape may be a bit negative, but the fact is that quality has fallen in the last few years and that something has to be done to change that culture.

39 Poulet, p. 71

Page suivante : 5.3.1. Difference of information’s quality between newspapers and new media

Retour au menu : Analyzing the influence of new media on newspapers businesses in Switzerland, the role of the government and the future of both media