By Anthony Mendicino
Students headed to Vrijte University in Amsterdam for a lecture from professor Jolien Arendsen, who studies media in the Netherlands.
Arendsen, a former student at Vrijte, has taught communication science at the school for six years.
She began her presentation by reviewing the similarities and differences between the protections in the U.S. Constitution and the constitution of the Netherlands as it pertains to media law.
Article 7 of the Netherlansds constitution states, “No one shall require prior permission to publish thoughts or opinions throught the press, without prejudice to the responsibility of every person under the law.”
“It’s very public focused,” she said of the Netherland’s constitution. “You can basically do whatever you want.”
Like the U.S. there have been significant changes to the Netherlands media law over time. Different laws have emerged to accommodate the changing ways media are consumed and disseminated throughout the country.
“The left wing media became a topic,” Arendsen said.
Like in the United States, a perceived bias in the media, mainly television media, became an area of concern for the Dutch. Arendsen and her peers conducted a study comparing different media outlets and their political leanings.
“They’re all the same really, there’s no real right wing or left wing agenda,” Arendsen said of the findings.
She then moved on to the ever-changing landscape of the average media consumer and how that affects the way media is dispersed. For example, like the United States, television news is by far the most popular, and the most bias.
Newspapers, on the other hand, are on the decline internationally.
“They have to change something because there is no money [in advertising revenue] left,” Arendsen said “Young people don’t use media in paper form – at all.”
TV remains important, but among younger generations TV’s impact is on the decline. With that decline comes the obvious decay of TV advertising money.
“Advertising income will fall at some point, it will happen. They [advertisers] will abandon T.V. at some point,” Arendsen said.
Perhaps the largest finding was the extent to which the internet impacts the “new news consumer,” A.K.A. anyone under 30. That demographic pays less attention to “hard news” and more attention to other types of stories like human interest and feature stories.
Media companies in the Netherlands thought “citizen journalism” would be the answer to the numerous problems facing the media. Considering the impact of social media on younger generations crowdsourcing news seemed like a good idea.
All the tenets of journalism still apply with crowd-sourced news. This theory was tested during a project that focused on the reporting of issues in low-income areas of the Netherlands. Instead of sending journalists, citizen reporters were assigned to cover the areas.
“We are crowd-sourcing, but then it has to be right. It has to be sourced properly,” Arendsen said.
The problems remained despite the tries at “citizen journalism,” leaving the million-dollar question of how to pay for good journalism unanswered.
“The pay wall is a new thing,” Arendsen said. “I go to read an article from De Volkskrant and go, ‘Ah! I can’t read it.’ Then I usually don’t end up reading it.”
Pay walls are just one way news outlets are trying to escape the mass exodus of money within the industry.
But where some see loss, some see opportunity.
An app named Blendle has emerged out of the Netherlands to bridge that gap.
Blendle is essentially a news aggregator that collects articles from sources and provides a pay-per-article service.
Arendsen commended the company on thinking outside the box and trying something new in a realm dominated by older formats.
She told the students that the question of how to pay for journalism would linger on into the future.