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An internet tax to save newspapers, and what else?

  • Posted by Tony Poulos
  • October 2, 2012 9:40 AM BST
  • s

Here's some great thinking. The internet is hurting newspapers. Newspapers employ journalists. Journalists are trained to write the news, the right way. Everybody reads the news and comments on it. These comments are called opinions.

One bright editor at the Guardian newspaper in the UK has suggested the food chain above is in jeopardy of collapsing if (more like when) newspapers go out of business. He has suggested an internet tax be levied to save the industry and, most importantly, the journalists in it.

David Leigh, an investigative editor, has proposed that each and every internet account in the UK be levied a fee of ?2 (about US$3.20) to help save his industry, but as a number of other observers have noted, journalism and newspapers are no longer synonymous. And newspapers appear to be offering more and more opinion, rather than pure news, because that's what people want to read to either agree or disagree with.

These days, anybody can write opinions, more commonly known as blogs, and post them to any number of high volume blog sites. If they are controversial enough and draw big reader numbers they may be offered payment to syndicate their work. Then they become 'pseudo' journalists.

Real journalists, trained for years to hunt out the news, now get most of their news from Reuters or the web because ordinary people at news scenes now use their mobile phones to photograph, film, write about what they see and upload to any number of social network sites, giving their new take on the news. Real journalists are then asked to write more opinions to placate both their owners and the masses, so they become bloggers. How the world turns!

Rupert Murdoch, when announcing pay-walls for the online versions of his newspapers, justified his actions by saying someone had to pay the journalists that generated the real news. Based on the above, even that argument is starting to lose credence.

Most journalists would also argue that what they are paid is not commensurate with their efforts and many are leaving journalism to take up roles in corporations wanting their messages expressed professionally by skilled writers.

So, what are the chances of a journalism tax? Zero, because if they go for that hair brain idea then every other industry feeling the digital pinch will be begging for a tax of their own, starting with bricks and mortar retailers, bookshops, music labels and movie studios. And where do you get most of your news from these days. Not newspapers I'll bet?