Chapter 7: 'The word' and 'the money': balancing values in the online newspaper market
The problem is finding a way to defend journalistic quality-there is a risk that quality deteriorates in the commercial media landscape. (Editor-in-chief of Svenska Dagbladet's culture section, Publicistklubben website, 15 April 2009) The quote above reflects the escalating debate about the newspaper market and its recent transformation. The challenges that the newspaper market has witnessed over time have raised concern. The media is commonly described as the fourth estate, referring to its role as an objective auditor and scrutinizer of government as well as an important information provider in society (Thurén 1988). Newspapers are therefore often understood as a public good central to the formation of opinion and the democratic conversation in society-that is values worth protecting for the benefit of the common good (Hvitfelt 2008). In the debate about the newspaper crisis, it is therefore often underlined that it is not only an economic crisis for newspaper owners but also a societal problem, as the democratic conversation is thereby endangered (cf. Greer 2004; Bergström et al. 2005; Berte and De Bens 2008; Hvitfelt and Nygren 2008). The institutionalized idea about the value of newspapers for the democratic conversation distinguishes the newspaper market from many other markets in terms of that it is not only commercially driven but that it also serves a role as provider of a public good. In Sweden, this distinctive role has, for example, been manifested in attempts by the government to prevent the 'death' of newspapers (Gustafsson 2007).
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