The decline and fall of traditional media and its grassroots impact on politics

The first time I came to live in England a few years ago, it was a cultural shock.

Not for the people but for the newspapers. Let me explain ..

If you were born outside England(as I was in India), you often have a quaint notion of England. In my case, it was based largely on reading Enid Blyton as a child and watching programs like To the manor born , Yes Minister and others. So, the impression of England is often polite, kind, cultured, dignified and with a sense of fairplay and a sense of humour.

However, when I first came here, I was shocked by the coverage in the tabloids especially the right leaning conservative press such as the Daily express , Daily mail and the Sun .

Hence, a few months later, when my landlord asked me ‘How do I like it here?’ – I said – it is different from what I expected. When I read the newspapers, the coverage seems so vicious and acrimonious. Not what I had expected.

He then smiled and gave me a piece of advice which I have followed ever since.

- Ignore the right leaning newspapers(The daily mail and daily express).

- Treat the left leaning newspapers with some skepticism(since they have an agenda)

- Read the Sun only till page 3 :)

- And read ALL your news from the Financial times or the Economist

Years later, now that I am a British citizen (and proud to be one!) as I reflect on that advice, it was an accurate portrayal of the many positive experiences I have had here.

In other words, the people are a lot better than their newspapers.

But why so?

Since my talk at the European Union on Web 2.0 , I have been following the impact of grassroots campaigning especially with the use of the Web so effectively by Barrack Obama in the forthcoming American elections.

There is a shift away from the power of big media – towards the people.

This can be only a good thing.

When Tony Blair stepped down as the British prime minister, he called the media feral

More recently, two major British newspapers apologized to the parents of Madeline Mc Cann for the outright lies they had published.

Indeed the traditional media is growing more rabid and vicious because they have to compete to gain a share of the attention in an era increasingly dominated by the Web.

I think this is a reflection of the shift of power away from the newspapers to the Web.

Apparently, (I can’t confirm this), the daily telegraph is the only newspaper in the UK which is profitable. The telegraph has an elderly audience – which probably explains its profitability.

This article from the Guardian paints a more accurate picture where it indicates that a majority of the young people no longer rely on the newspapers to get their information.

This can only be a good thing. It is a little unsettling to see media barons like Rupert Murdoch direct their newspapers to ‘support’ a political party .

The decline of traditional media and consequently in the death of the symbiotic relationship between media and the politicians can only benefit people and lead to the emergence of grassroots leaders who don’t need the backing of big media or big business.

This may not happen immediately but may well happen sooner than we think.

As a libertarian, I find this very appealing.