Casualties of the digital revolution

A happy combination of the Web Summit and the Word Mines has kept me away from here.
Yesterday I was making progress again on the sequel to The Squad when my attention was grabbed last night by some breaking news about a newspaper.
Ironically learned about the story from Twitter.
The tweet told me that Scotsman and other titles owned by Johnston Press had gone into administration.
I will declare an interest, the first time I ever had a by-line published in any newspaper was in the Scotsman.
A buddy of mine who worked as a staffer in North Bridge had shepherded the piece through the commissioning process.
That was in the mid-1980s.
By the time the readership of the Scotsman had read my op-ed I had already devoured Alvin Toffler’s “The Third Wave” and “Future Shock” some years previously.
Although I fully accepted his thesis I could not envisage that one day I would be part of what he coined “a de-massified media”.
For Toffler, the endpoint of the Third Wave technological revolution was what he termed the “electronic cottage”.
It captured my imagination as an antidote to the living hell of the industrialised cities of “Second Wave” civilisation.
These words blink to life on an Irish hillside.
I finally got there.
In 2011 professor Roy Greenslade of the City University and the Guardian gave a very prescient lecture to the NUJ’s Irish Conference.
You can listen to it here.
Roy’s analysis of the structural challenges to mass circulation newspapers remains unassailable in my view.
Professor Greenslade was keen to point out that revolutions, by their very nature, are chaotic.
Moreover, the revolutionary forces have zero respect for previous conventions.
Consequently, in the midst of the digital revolution mass circulation newspapers are caught in a perfect storm.
As I recall it took me several anxious weeks to find out if my piece would actually end up in the pages of the Scotsman.
Now, once I have finished off this piece I know that all I have to do is hit the “publish” button.
It will then instantly appear on small television screens in pockets across the planet.
Amazingly I have many more daily page views on this site than the Scotsman has purchased copies.
As Professor Greenslade noted this is a revolution.
When he said those words as I sat beside him I was reminded of the words of Frantz Fanon when he described the de-colonisation process; “it is a program of complete disorder”.
There is almost always a human cost in all major technological revolutions.
Therefore, today my thoughts are with all of the hard working staff throughout those Johnston Press titles.
Of course, these changes are taking place within a capitalist system that elevates the bottom line over the needs of the people who create real value.
I noted last night that by going into administration that Johnston Press would reportedly be able to avoid paying creditors and that pension payments would be reduced.
Classy…

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