Journalists, particularly American ones, got a hard dose of earthy, pragmatic and perhaps even visionary thinking today (Wednesday, Bangkok time) from one of Asia’s most successful media barons.
Jimmy Lai, the blunt and engaging founder of Hong Kong’s Next Media Ltd. and publisher of the popular Apple Daily newspaper, told the group that it is change-or-die time for journalism.
This means, he said, changing the technology of how we deliver news as well as being willing to rethink the very notion of what news is. A newsapaper is a “sentimental and emotional product,” he said.
“It is the emotion behind the story, not the news itself. The newspaper is a right brain product and people want the sentimental side of it.
“Lai admits his products, both in Hong Kong and Taiwan, are often sensational.
But his response was, effectively, so what?”
People want news that they can relate to their life,” he said. “Nobody wants to go to school every day. A story without people isn ‘t a story.”
And a lot of the people in the media today have missed this.”But shouldn’t the media give folks a dose of what they need to know, as well as what they want to know? he was asked.
That idea, Lai said, assumes that the media should treat readers “like children.”
“I don’t understand why we think people need what they don’t want,” he said.
If the future of journlism is in high-touch, sensational, personal and emotional approaches, it is also about rethinking completely our approach to the way people absorb information.
This is particularly true of young people, who are leaving old media in droves.
“What we have today is not a true electronic newspaper,” he said.”It is a print newspaper on line.
“The younger generation doesn’t rely on text-driven sources of information, he said. Instead, it “assimilates images.
“There’s a generation gap. They have a very greater field of view for assimilating images than we do. We have the imagination to read text . They don’t as much.”
So, if there is going to be a true electronic newspaper in the future, and there should, he said, the very configuration of the media will have to change so the electronic generation can assimilate it.
What will that future look like? Lai said he isn’t sure, but he has some ideas.
“The bigger part of the media will have to become image, what kind I don’t know,” he said. “But it will be a moving image, you need action to show emotion.
“The future of the newspaper is image and action and sentimentality and human drama.”
Several American journalists at their own panel later in the day took some issue with Lai, saying it is the responsibility of the media to inform and give people a dose of “vegetables,” as it were.
That’s no doubt true. But it doesn’t escape anyone that while the U.S. media is struggling , Lai and his brand of journalism is making a ton of money.
Lai also had some very interesting and provocative things to say about Taiwan (he is very bullish) but that’s for another blog, a little bit later.
To hear an audio recording of Lai’s conversation with the Center’s Ray Burghardt, go HERE