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

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The difference of quality between newspapers and new media can be difficult to measure. The first problem is that newspapers and new media are two very general entities. In the newspapers category there are a lot of differences of quality between titles and it is the same in the new media group. Secondly both types of media can produce quality content. This is an important aspect because quality comes from the journalists behind the content not from the type of media they are into. For instance the magazine l’Hebdo, which is a news magazine that belongs to Ringier, launched recently an iPad version where the contents are exactly the same as in its paper version. The quality of the work of the journalists is obviously not modified by the fact that it can be read on an iPad.

Nevertheless general tendencies of the Swiss market can be shown to illustrate that there is a difference of quality between newspapers and new media in this country. The first step to exemplify that is by showing the differences between the online and print editions of the subscription press. The research by the University of Zürich made some interesting discoveries in that area. They calculated the communication occurrences in newspapers and their online version that were related to politics, economy or culture. In the following table some results of Swiss newspapers are shown:

Difference of the percentage of communication occurrences that relate politics, economy or culture in print and online versions of Swiss newspapers (44)

Tableau 4 Analyzing the influence of new media on newspapers businesses in Switzerland, the role of the government and the future of both media
Even though these results are not absolutely uncontestable, they prove a general tendency of the media on the Internet. More and more online media goes toward tabloidization. According to the study this is the case for all the different media online. In other words this means that online versions of Swiss newspapers treat less politics, culture, economy and international news than their print versions. In those there are more articles on subject that matter to the good functioning of the democracy. This does not mean that those subjects interest more the public. But they do contribute more to quality.

Another problem of the online versions is that fewer subjects are treated on the online media than on their print versions. The online agenda is in general dominated by sport results and human interest. This is a logical consequence of the online media treating less important subjects, like it was described a few lines before.

On the Internet you can now find many news sites that are not an online version of another media. Those websites are an additional example that shows a difference of quality between the press and the new media. On those sites there is a constant flowing of information, but the resources of their redaction are very limited. That is why most of the time only facts are related. There are no commentaries or opinions of the journalists and therefore a clear understanding of the themes becomes more difficult. Those news sites are countless nowadays. And clearly this is a problem for the quality of the media in Switzerland. That kind of journalism does not help the democratic debate at all. Moreover a lot of articles are not even written by journalists but the contents are bought to agencies and put online without any additional editorial work.

A last example to illustrate the often poor quality on online media: because of the “click mentality”, the online journalists often play with emotion of the readers to attract them. Articles titles like “Only death can stop me” or “terror in Germany: murderers escape from prison” were found on Swiss online media. The only goal of such titles is to draw the attention of the readers so they stay on their website. Even if the titles are not objective and far away from the truth, they are used anyway.

This is one more illustration of the problems many online media have: there are less diversified, less relevant, less contextual and less professional as well. As stated this does not come from the format of the media but because of the lack of journalistic work behind new media. But these problems are recurring in the Swiss new media right now.


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