Wednesday, 2 January 2008

Berton's 2008 J

Catching up to Paul Berton's predictions for journalism in 2008, we note his announcement that the London Free Press will be given a makeover in March.

"Newspapers, including this one (in March), will re-organize and redesign themselves to reflect the new reality of electronic news delivery, even though they will continue to be delivered and put together in a traditional way," Berton said in his pre-New Year's column.

Could that be Freep's worst-kept secret that LFP is finally joining the major Sun Media dailies by going tabloid? That was the rumour last year when the broadsheet newspaper was to be printed on Quebecor's new presses in Toronto. But London got to keep its presses.

The changes Berton mentions, do they include full online editions of the Free Press by monthly subscription, following the Winnipeg Sun's move last month?

Here are Berton's other 2008 predictions for journalism:

- The demise of newspapers will be greatly exaggerated (again). Newspapers will still be profitable and thriving by the end of 2008.

- Criticism of journalists will continue unabated. Politicians will repeat that they've been misquoted and that articles are little more than fiction. Moviemakers will continue to portray journalists as bumbling fiction writers.

- Paparazzi the world over will continue to embarrass the industry as a whole, and at least one of them will go too far and do something really stupid, prompting one government (probably Britain's) to try again to rein them in through legislation.

- Journalists across the industry will be accused of missing or ignoring a big story or stories, such as the weapons of mass destruction hoax, or buying, hook, line and sinker, into the official party line, or underplaying other stories.

- Journalists across the industry will uncover corruption or misdeeds in politics, business and elsewhere and improve the situation for countless millions while providing readers with terrific articles and useful information. Any credit they might deserve for it will be drowned out by the cacophony of media criticism.

- Some of these articles about high-level misdeeds will be too complex for most readers to decipher, so they'll turn instead to the endless coverage of celebrity news while criticizing newspapers for running all that trivial information about which movie stars are buying new homes or helping African villages.

- The new owners of several newspaper chains in the United States will be accused again of slashing budgets and gutting newsrooms, which will be true, recession or not.

- News organizations will continue to close expensive foreign bureaus and focus on local news.

- Circulation at newspapers across the continent will continue to decline everywhere at the same rate (about two or three per cent) as other years, but online readers will multiply everywhere.

- Newspaper websites will be barely recognizable compared to those those you saw at the beginning of 2007. Websites such as, which already posts many videos each week, will double or triple that number in the coming months. Look for more slide shows, interactive graphics and up-to-the-minute reports by Free Press reporters.

- Newspapers outside North America will continue to convert to a smaller compact or tabloid form in increasing numbers, but only a few in Canada and the United States will take the plunge, even though they know it is inevitable.

- The citizen journalist will play an increasing role in newspapers and electronic media. The debate over whether ordinary citizens can be depended upon to deliver an accurate or balanced report (or whether professional journalists can) will reach a fever pitch.

- All those who do not regularly read web blogs will again question their usefulness, but the number of blogs will continue to swell from the millions into the billions.

- Some of the new technology associated with online journalism will continue to boggle the minds of plain old newspaper lovers.

- Journalists like me will continue to make predictions about the industry, and only the utterly predictable ones will actually come true.

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