The crowd at the Council of State Governments Eastern Regional Conference in Burlington heard a speech today on a topic near and dear to me: The future of state news reporting. If speaker Pete Hamill had the answer I wanted to hear it.
So did he have the answer? Sort of. He offered a hint of hope.
Hamill, who started his career at the New York Post and has written nine novels, set the stage by reminding the crowd that the media is essential to democracy, to teaching people about their community. "The need to explain is always there," he said.
Hamill warned the group of the peril society faces. On a subway in New York City recently, he recounted, a few people were reading papers but the majority either "thumbers" working their BlackBerries or people just staring into space. The Internet that those thumbers were accessing poses a daunting challenge to media, who haven't yet figured out how to make a living off it.
Hamill said he thinks one possible solution is charging for content online. The Wall Street Journal does it. I read recently that the Daily Gazette in Schenectady is going back to that. It should be clear soon whether that will help, he said. "We'll know better in maybe 11 minutes the way things are going. Certainly by the end of the year."
Will it be enough? Hamill hopes so, and perhaps he persuaded a roomful of lawmakers to hope so.
"We need it because the essence of our democracy is at risk," he said.
- Terri Hallenbeck
Labels: journalism, Peter Hamill, politics, Vermont