Newspaper clipping services have traditionally been the much derided poor cousins to newspapers proper, but all that may be changing and changing very rapidly.
The Open Source Center (OSC) was set up in 2005 and has as one of its prime functions the assignment of putting together information packages that contain clippings of local news and other items that may be of interest to government workers in all roles. The service was originally a supplemental service based on the assumptions about a given worker’s ability to access information. It is solely for government workers and contractors but there is a website where individuals not associated with the government can request access to the material.
In the old days, as in a couple of years ago, one could have assumed that to be well-informed would consist of reading the newspaper in the morning on the way to work and catching up with the nightly news broadcast on television in the evening. All the information to make sense of the world would have been present in a condensed and slickly-packaged form to enable the quick assimilation of important news from home and abroad.
The decline in newspaper sales is well-documented, and so little money is invested in television news that it is a wonder that anything of worth gets reported at all. The immediate reflexive response would be to say, “not to worry, we have the Web.” Since we have the Internet with all its news aggregators and the now very important Twitter, we can make a reasonable argument that we don’t need these archaic information distribution models anymore.
But for those with more than a passing interest in news and who are expected to be well-informed individuals as a requisite for their jobs, RSS and status updates are a massive time-suck. As wonderful as real-time bulletins are on the modern Web, trying to fit things into a context or being able to take a big picture look at a given situation can be quite a bit of work.
Now the emphasis has changed. Due to the decline of the newspaper sources, the task of the OSC to supplement daily news literacy has now morphed into being a primary source of news literacy. This is a big job. The most recent figures show that there are 1567 channels of news and information (N&I) worldwide. In the EU, there are 167 N&I sources. That is just television. Newspapers plus all the videos on YouTube need to be monitored too.
In Pakistan, which for obvious geo-political reasons is very important to monitor what is being said and shown, there are 8 N&I channels. Four in Urdu, two in English, and one each in Hindi and Pushtu. Available information is not the issue. Making sense of it is.
These changes in working practices, from the packaging of information being a primary function rather than supplemental form, means that the need still exists for the packaging and presentation of information into intelligible and digestible chunks. One consequence is that there is still a market of sorts for trained journalists and experienced editors.
If the US government sees a need for it than it can’t be too long before other governments and large corporations, institutions, universities, etc., will see the need for a similar service to keep their own people educated and informed about the world around them. All the decisions we make are in the context of wider worldwide picture and the better informed we are the better choices we can make either at home and at work.