Here's some good news. Google "considers journalism's survival crucial to its own prospects," writes James Fallows in the Atlantic. Therefore many of Google's smartest people — who are very smart people indeed — are thinking hard and fruitfully about ways to set journalism back on its feet. In "How to Save the News," Fallows talks to a bunch of them.
"Ten years from now," he's comfortable saying at the conclusion of his long and involving article, "a robust and better-funded news business will be thriving." He notes that "the news business has continually been reinvented by people in their 20s and early 30s," and expects that it will be again.
So the news is good. Fallows's regret is that there's a little less of it than he'd like to offer. Google's people have lucid and encouraging things to say to him about such knotty subjects as online display ads and paywalls. But none of this means Google or anyone else will have "fully figured out how to pay for the bureau in Baghdad, or even the statehouse," Fallows allows. That kind of news has always been a loss leader; advertisers don't demand it, and Fallows has his doubts whether it's vital to Google either. Google needs "premium content" from media companies and is creating tools that will allow those companies to continue to provide it, but it doesn't necessarily need that content from Iraq.
So even if everything Google is coming up with works and new business models resurrect journalism online, Fallows fears some of its most important responsibilities could be at risk. He writes, "Google's efforts may have bought time for a panicked, transitional news business to see a future for itself" — and instead of thinking of survival begin thinking of the "new remedies and roles" that will make the rest of us glad it's still around.