You might have heard the news this week that Apple is creating a news service, a TV channel and a gaming service (among other things). I downloaded the necessary update and subscribed to the news service that afternoon. (I had previously subscribed to a service called Texture that Apple bought to create their new offering so for me this was more access for the same cost.) I’ve been using the service all week. I like it.
Last night I read the latest issue of Time Magazine. I haven’t read Time in years, but when I was a student, the end of the week, when the latest issue would arrive in the mail was a highlight of my week. The reporting in Time wasn’t of breaking news, but it had plenty of digested news, news in context and reporting that showed how the latest story fit into a larger narrative. Then I read the latest issue of Sky and Telescope (so many memories!) and started on Scientific American. I’m hoping to read the New Yorker and more of the Atlantic this weekend.
I was struck by the quality of the writing and even more by the insight. Here are real journalists, people who went to school and have spent years learning their craft, doing what they have dedicated their lives to doing. It’s so much more useful than looking at some social influencer’s latest Instagram, or a leaked blurry image of the latest model of a popular phone, or breathless unreflective accounts of what is essentially a press release. Here’s what Sunday papers and weekly news magazines used to provide to the civic enterprise. In our embrace of the web and its unending stream of novelty, we had lost our national critical reflective function.
Part of what has caused all of this is our human attraction to novelty and the latest shiny thing. And a large part of it was caused by the collapse of the Pulitzer inspired business model that paid the bills for local news outlets. If you want to see the consequences of this collapse, look at the level of uninformed “shouty” national discourse that 24-hour news TV channels have brought us.
I’m delighted to discover that news magazines and real journalism still exists, and even more delighted that my entire family now has access to it. I hope it helps me be a better citizen. I hope it keeps me from falling for the latest online, Twitter-fueled, conspiracy theory. And I hope this sort of service beings to multiply so that other people return to consuming real thoughtful news. Here’s hoping that this and similar services get legs enough to begin a transition to a new business model that will support real professional journalists again and not the breaking news NOW model that keeps our attention but doesn’t inform us.
There are people who long ago learned how to use the breaking news NOW model to keep us reacting and not reflecting. And our civic life is not prospering as a result.
So, thank you Apple for trying to do something new. Here’s hoping that this helps real journalists find a way to make a living doing what we need them to do.