Two journalists' thoughts on morality and communications return me to a reoccuring question I struggle with -- are state legislatures prepared to meet the challenges of communicating in the Web 2.0 age?
The New York Times columnist David Pogue was astonished recently when he couldn't find a question to college students about copyright protection that "would trigger these kids' morality alarm." By asking questions ranging from making safety copies of DVDs to downright illegal downloads of movies, he found that students living in the new digital age are used to acquiring free content and have few qualms about getting the digital content they want by any means necessary.
Los Angeles Times columnist David Lazarus asked some similar questions to students, but focused more on online newspaper content. Again, he found that students are so used to getting free online news articles that paying a fee for them struck the students as a crazy idea. His larger point is that journalism needs a better business model to guarantee its future.
These columns raise several questions that legislatures should consider about how they communicate on the Internet. Is the content being provided able to compete with other digital content students are downloading? Is information being provided in a format that is easy to obtain and update? Are enough resources being put in place to generate content people will use and become more involved? Is the media -- where most people say they get information about legislative actions -- reacting fast enough to these changes?
There are public information officers in the states who are paying attention to these trends and working on ways to make sure they are adapting to the changes in journalism and the new ways that people are sharing information. Legislatures that don't adapt are at risk of others controlling their messages for them.