INDEPENDENT NEWS

The News Crisis & Scoop - Once More Unto The Breach

Published: Wed 13 Jun 2018 08:00 AM
The News Crisis & Scoop - Once More Unto The Breach
By Alastair Thompson (with thanks and apologies to William Shakespeare)
Once more unto the breach, dear friends, once more;
Or close the wall up with our English dead.
In peace there's nothing so becomes a man
As modest stillness and humility:
William Shakespeare from Henry V (spoken by King Henry) 1599
Scoop’s survival to maintain a publicly available feed of New Zealand's raw news day in and day out for 6931 days - the past 19 years, and three days - has been an almighty struggle, borne by the long-serving staff and far-sighted core supporters of Scoop.
Doubtless it would be easier had we simply surrendered to the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune many moons ago. But today is not a day for defeat, indeed, defeat is not yet part of the Scoop lexicon. It is our intention to tell you, dear readers, what we consider is an important story, as the battle to keep the flame of Scoop alive is once again rejoined.
Why? Why indeed? This article gives you an answer as I initiate the next phase of the Scoop Foundation project, Scoop 3.0. Our plan is to build a larger global lifeboat for reliable information to inform democratic decision-making, and to do so by proselytising and spreading Scoop’s commercial use licensing, ethical paywall, business model for funding journalism to new horizons.
For as our 19th year of publishing begins, the simple truth is that the global News Media is fighting at present for its survival with only bows and arrows, against an enemy armed with cannons. Unless the news media everywhere changes its fundamental business approach, it will surely lose this battle, and the consequences of this defeat for our democracy and civilisation will be dire.
Practically speaking, this article also carries an invitation to you, our valued readers and contributors, to help us to tell two stories:
the Story of the News Funding Crisis here in New Zealand, which is deepening by the day; and Stories of Scoop, by which we mean stories about both what we do, why we do it, and hopefully – with your help – what Scoop has meant to you our readers and contributors over the past 19 years and three days.
If you would like to participate in this effort, please email me at alastair@scoopmedia.co.nz and I will send instructions.
From this day to the ending of the world,
But we in it shall be rememberèd—
We few, we happy few, we band of brothers;
For he to-day that sheds his blood with me
Shall be my brother; be he ne'er so vile,
This day shall gentle his condition;
And gentlemen in England now a-bed
Shall think themselves accurs'd they were not here,
And hold their manhoods cheap whiles any speaks
That fought with us upon Saint Crispin's day.
William Shakespeare, Henry V – St Crispin’s day speech, on the eve of the battle of Agincourt
The predicament of the News Media in this our winter of discontent, facing a storm of disruption to advertising markets may look more like the army of Highlanders slaughtered at Culloden, than the victorious army of Henry V at the siege of Harfleur in France.
Like the battle weary army of Bonnie Prince Charlie, the global news media faces almost unbeatable odds in its battle to hold onto advertising revenue from the ravaging twin corporate digital demagorgons known as Google and Facebook. The scale of the destruction being wrought to advertising markets is no clearer than here in NZ, where Google is now hoovering up more than half of all digital advertising revenue.
However in this hot take - not being defeatist –I conjure up instead Henry V, hero of Agincourt whose victory was celebrated by Shakespeare, as publicist for the Tudors, almost 200 years later.
As for us - we happy few, we band of brothers and sisters who have poured so much of our lives into this project called Scoop these past 19 years, and three days - we intend still to achieve a glorious victory, such as that of Henry V.
But how, you will rightly ask, does Scoop plan to seize victory from the mouth of such grievous foe? To which we respond, with the truth, dear friends, the truth. Namely the truth in all its gory detail of the hows and what disruption is doing to the information streams that are the lifeblood of democracy.
The truth is that the death of the media has come like that to a frog boiling in a pot. The boiling frog does not know it is dying. And so it is with democracy. As if to illustrate this point, last year the legendary Washington Post changed its masthead shortly after the election of Donald Trump to the now unquestionably apt motto “Democracy Dies In Darkness.”
Unsurprisingly their boldness was greeted with a cacophony of applause and derision as is the way in this digital first media world. But what they meant is plain. Without informed voters, democracy will surely die.
While the fairer intellectual disciplines Science, the Arts and Academia continue to be generously funded by Government, philanthropists and billionaires alike, Journalism of the routine kind - which has for three centuries provided the information infrastructure upon which a pluralist democracy is based - is fast disappearing in a fog of fake news.
So then, this is Scoop’s call to arms, to you our dear readers, we few, we band of brothers and sisters.
But when the blast of war blows in our ears,
Then imitate the action of the tiger;
Stiffen the sinews, summon up the blood,
Disguise fair nature with hard-favour'd rage;
Then lend the eye a terrible aspect;
Let pry through the portage of the head
Like the brass cannon; let the brow o'erwhelm it
As fearfully as doth a galled rock
O'erhang and jutty his confounded base,
Swill'd with the wild and wasteful ocean.
William Shakespeare from Henry V (spoken by King Henry) 1599
Scoop’s survival would be assured, indeed we would prosper, did those institutions of NZ which utilise Scoop on a daily basis honour our clearly advertised and oft communicated terms and conditions of use. Commercial use license or ethical paywall, means that professional users of Scoop’s services are required to pay a reasonable fee for professional use, and through their doing so Scoop is enabled to allow free access by non-professional readers.
To the 200 strong group of organisations that already do so - we salute you, and heartily thank you for your generosity of spirit and pocket. To the many 100s that do not, we ask, why do you make use of our fruit of our labour and yet not pay us for the work provided?
The law of copyright, dating back to the dawn of the Fourth Estate in London at the beginning of the 18th Century is still relevant, although transformed for the digital age. It is not a novel idea that those who create intellectual property ought to be able to earn a living from those who use that work in their businesses. This is all we, the creators of Scoop have sought - to be paid by those who rely on the work we do. And in being so maintained, maintain our independence - the foundation stone of a free news media.
A global solution is required to the problem of ensuring we have informed democracies. Hard won democracy is not just a disposable widget in the market place. New Zealand is but a locus of a far larger disease that threatens democracy everywhere . And Scoop’s intention in its Scoop 3.0 project is to spread the tools of our business practice far and wide.
Details of the Scoop 3.0 project will be unveiled in due course, but in essence we wish to evolve Scoop from a news information publisher at the edge of the world, into a Software As A Service startup that provides a useful business model for news services and democracy around the world, as well as continuing to fund Scoop.
Be copy now to men of grosser blood,
And teach them how to war. And you, good yeoman,
Whose limbs were made in England, show us here
The mettle of your pasture; let us swear
That you are worth your breeding; which I doubt not;
For there is none of you so mean and base,
That hath not noble lustre in your eyes.
William Shakespeare from Henry V (spoken by King Henry) 1599
And so it is our hope that our Scoop 3.0 project, may at least “be copy” - an example to our brethren of “grosser blood” (e.g. the Murdochs), and useful to those with noble lustre in their eyes (all news media with integrity - Stuff.co.nz, NewsRoom.co.nz, NZherald.co.nz, thespinoff.co.nz and odt.co.nz) by showing there is an approach other than paywalls that close out the public, or digital advertising that leads, as we now well know, to a far grosser approach to news and privacy, and one absent it’s erstwhile promised rewards.
I see you stand like greyhounds in the slips,
Straining upon the start. The game's afoot:
Follow your spirit, and upon this charge
Cry 'God for Harry, England, and Saint George!'
William Shakespeare from Henry V (spoken by King Henry) 1599
And so another chapter begins.
Soon you shall hear more of our plans. But for now dear readers, and once again with a sincere thank you and apology to the bard, adieu.
ENDS
Alastair Thompson
Scoop Publisher
Alastair Thompson is the co-founder of Scoop. He is of Scottish and Irish extraction and from Wellington, New Zealand. Alastair has 24 years experience in the media, at the Dominion, National Business Review, North & South magazine, Straight Furrow newspaper and online since 1997. He is the winner of several journalism awards for business and investigative work.
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