Iceland: home of the free and the brave?

Dateline: Mon 12 Oct 2009

If the number of newspapers are a measure of a nation's civil discourse and a testament to the vigorous, healthy watchdog role journalists play, then the most advanced country in the world is ---


Here is a revelatory email from friend and blog reader Tom Butters of Greens Fork, Ind. (where it is sometimes very difficult to get the Indianapolis Star delivered):

"I just received a 'bonus' with my subscription to The Economist, a thick booklet entitled 'Pocket World in Figures,' writes Tom. "There are a number of revelations in it.  And some disconcertations.  (Is that a word?)
"1.  A ranking of the top 30 nations by number of newspaper per thousand population, has Iceland first with 821!  The US is 25th, with 184 (behind Croatia, with 194).
"2.  A ranking of 'press freedom' based on a 50 question survey has Iceland ranked as 'most free.' Slovenia is 30th.  The US isn't even ranked.  ('Least free" is Eritrea with North Korea following.  Tunisia is 30th least free.  At least the US isn't on this list either.)
"What to make of this?," adds Tom....."possibly that newspapers have become irrelevant in the US...just as reading is becoming irrelevant.  Critical thinking soon to follow."

We're on the death watch again. Just when I'd adjusted my rose-colored glasses Rx and was seeing blue skies ahead....down the tubes. Oy.


WilsonAllen [Member] said:

Iceland is about the same size as the entire state of Indiana with a total population less than half of Indianapolis.

2009-10-12 16:28:45

hendy [Member] said:

And most speak English, thanks to the AFBs there. Newspaper delivery is easy. Oh, and let's see.... the population has to stay indoors for a large fraction of the year. Oh, and then there's that pesky financial problem they got themselves into...

The problem with newspaper people is that they believe somehow that news directly has an affect on them, leading to anxiety medications and drinking. Even news about the news can bring on this problem. You see, they want to believe that the news makes a difference, and somehow they're in the food chain that proves the point. In reality, the news is still around, and newspapers are just another distribution medium, as the news is still there, and being distributed digitally these days. The trolley cars are gone; we're using those new fangled automobiles.

The remedy: throw away the TV, get an RSS feeder, and don't sweat. In fact, enjoy this lovely weather before it gets to be really cold.

2009-10-12 17:09:19

John Howard [unverified] said:

My dusty and long-unused UPS training still was able to wake up and remind me it is 'Greens Fork' (with or without an apostrophe).

Now why is it can't I remember everything I went to the store for until I get home?

2009-10-12 22:33:26

ruthholl [Member] said:

Greens Fork has now been restored/corrected to its rightful spelling and its place in the universe.
Incidentally, I found a web site, Nation Master, that shows similar trends to what was identified in The Economist's numbers book. It had daily newspaper circulation per capita (1000 people) with Iceland as No. 8 -- icy cold Norway was No. 1 -- and the U.S. did not even make the cut. However, in cinema attendance (same studies) India was No. 1 and U.S. was No. 2 -- go U.S.!!!
It seems that newspaper circulation is also high in countries that are homogeneous - such as Japan (and Iceland).
Anyhow, Wilson, nice to see you here again, but if you factor in the per 1000 capita, I think the figures are quite telling.
The site I found is
Go to statsitics. There's a lot on media consumption, including films produced (India is No. 1, U.S. is No. 2). I fear it is U.S.-centric to assume we have the corner on media endeavors; clearly, in newspapers, U.S. is losing ground and/or, not even in the game...

2009-10-13 01:33:56

Tom Greenacres [unverified] said:

hendy, I still say the "news-internet" disconnect is this: without someone, e.g., a publisher, paying salaries, you won't have reporters poking through records looking for corruption and irregularities. Bloggers don't have the resources (or the legal standing) that bona fide reporters have.

And there's the matter of credibility. By no means would I say that newspapers always exhibit the highest journalistic standards- not as long as editors have axes to grind-but they are susceptible to community censure, through loss of advert revenue if nothing else. Newspapers want and need the impramatur of The Local Establishment at least in broad brush. Bloggers answer to no one and can assert, for example, that the Holocaust didn't happen, without fear of economic reprisal. Newspapers cannot afford to be irresponsible. At least not all the time.

I agree about throwing away the TV and will sacrifice my History Channel if others do likewise. We'd all be better off without so much of so much.

2009-10-13 07:44:53

Tom Greenacres [unverified] said:

John, good recall: Greens Fork, originally Washington, Indiana. Two words, no apostrophe and the only Greens Fork in America. Having no stoplight, it is on 38 midway between Richmond and Hagerstown. (Has a small museum with a fine and much used geneology center.)

2009-10-13 07:48:41

hendy [Member] said:

TG: someone pays me. They underpay me. Ok, I'm not a journalist-- I'm a researcher that publishes in high-profile trade zines.

You mistake bloggers for other purveyors of news. Sometimes they can be the same, that is, bloggers using journalistic qualities. Often, not.

The loss you cite-- 'susceptible to community censure, through the loss of advert revenues..' has already happened. Yeah, I like to read a rag whilst chomping my granola. But the medium is now difficult, compared to the damnable keyboard and screen now in front of me.

Are there trusted news sources online? Yes. I can get everything IndyStar has (of worth) online, for free. Why get a paper sub? Then I have to recycle the now dead news... call it 'olds'. You believe that people actually believe blogger blather. There are all sorts of Holocaust deniers, idiota, and blithering idiots on the web. These people deserve no attention, and are just part of the noise of the web.

Bottom line: the Icelanders have an indoor life; their newspaper per capita figure is a fluke. There are really good sources of credible information on the web, and there are contributors to the mass of information that are both cogent, and objective.

The devolution of the Indpls Star is of its own making. There were good writers there; some of them stop by here, and one of them is the blogger/hostess. Conglomerations of bloggers, known as the 'blogrolls' you see listed on the front page of most sites is a list of whom these bloggers believe in. The two sites that I run (I contribute to a dozen more), have a low blogroll count because I'm not in the news business. If I were, the composition of the sites would be different. For now, my blogging usually constitutes rants, like my occasional column in the IBJ. For real money, I do the research, make the judgments, and publish in print and on the web. I'm a smaller name in my space. I'm not after fame; I like what I do, and others seem to be my fan club-- judged by the hit count and mail. I have my skeptics and even a few detractors. If I didn't have either of these, I'd know I was doing something wrong.

So the TV is on for The Daily Show, maybe Colbert, but it's otherwise completely off.

2009-10-13 10:41:50

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