The Sun has set, we’re into darkness…
This last issue is full of tributes and laments, including comments from many public personalities.
Below are my full responses to the questions I was asked regarding the closure of the Sun – I knew it was far more than they would use, but I thought I’d give them the options all the same:
Are you concerned about media consolidation given the Bermuda Sun’s closure?
Yes, very much so.
I think it is always dangerous to have limited media options.
“New Media” hasn’t really filled the shoes of “Old Media” in terms of journalistic resources yet.
We’re increasingly an information desert; social media tends to mask that, but social media itself remains dependent on good journalism.
The loss of the Sun greatly reduces ‘the people’s’ access to information and concentrates too much power – control over information – in too few hands.
How will this affect the local coverage of the news?
If you look at the biggest political scandal of recent times, Jet Gate, if it wasn’t for the Sun providing key information – complementing ZBM and Politica – and relying solely on the RG, it is unlikely we’d have gotten even half of the revelations we’ve had.
With reduced media diversity, as a people we’re reliant on a news media which hasn’t done a particularly good job of acting in the public interest of late. And now it has less competition it has even less reason to serve the public interest.
Also, there’s now a surplus of journalists.
This will depress the collective wages of all journalists and threatens editorial/journalistic independence as ‘owner’s interests’ can now use this reserve army of unemployed journalists to discipline journalists.
It makes journalists less likely to defend their integrity or pursue stories that may upset owner interests, out of fear of being replaced.
Will this create a news vacuum at all? And do you think a new outlet will form to fill the vacuum? Or is the local media market already over-saturated?
Yes, it sure will create a vacuum.
I am hopeful that out of this darkness we’ll see new forms of media to fill the void, but at the moment I’m a tad pessimistic.
It depends on what you mean by ‘over-saturated’.
I think there’s clearly an appetite for media diversity – and media diversity is in the public interest too; diverse and strong journalism should be considered a public good in my opinion.
Is it over-saturated for advertising revenue? Quite possibly yes, especially with the rise of smart, targeted advertising.
So, I don’t think the business model we’ve had in Bermuda works anymore.
However, there’s other models, such as community funding or public subsidies of journalism, like in Europe, that we can look at.
Now, more than ever, the democratisation of journalism has to be considered a key struggle for democratising society. Journalism here is in crisis – and so is our democracy.
Much has been made of the Royal Gazette’s alleged OBA bias. Is that a valid criticism in your mind? If so, why?
I think it is, but it would be difficult to definitively prove.
What is clear is that the RG’s editorial independence is compromised by editorial instability there – they don’t even have an editor anymore, just a ‘consulting editor’, and so owner interest seem to have become dominant there.
And if you look at their reporting, for whatever reason, they seem to have been largely ignoring major stories or generally treating the current Government with kid’s gloves.
They still have great journalists there, but I think they’re under-resourced, journalistically.
This means they’re not able to follow-up on stories properly; they can’t chase stories critically or investigatively.
More and more their stories look like cut and past PR jobs unfortunately – which is not surprising when I believe there’s something like two or three PR people in Bermuda to every one journalist. They’re overwhelmed.
Journalism, as an institution here, it’s in freefall.
See also Bermuda Blue’s post on this.