man reading a newspaper

Press “freedom” – the knell of local news

Before the days of internet – not so very long ago – the local newspaper provided a lifeline for the community.

Turning the pages while comfortably seated in front of a winter fire, in a summer garden or at a local café, one could select whatever neighbourly news might be of interest.

The announcements of births, marriages and deaths and the results of local sport competitions were always a popular read while official information concerning property sales, pending divorces and bureaucratic procedures was published by the notary and town hall.

Then, of course, there was always the letters page to arouse indignation, praise and dejection. Advertising by local businesses could be read in one’s own time and might be selected for future reference by scissoring out or circling with a pen.

This leisurely enjoyment came to an abrupt end by the issuing of supplements followed swiftly by the complete replacement of paper with digital editions, which derived an enhanced income by accepting split second advertising devised robotically and often supported by hack written “articles of interest”.

But now we are warned that future publishing will be controlled by artificial intelligence which is able to write articles, create news and misinformation in an appealing manner and subject only – for the time being – to the whimsical orders of press agencies such as the once respected Reuters.

Direct advertising such as those annoying pop-ups will diminish and be replaced by subliminal motivation which will be pumped unceasingly via iPhones and laptops and directed to us via analysis and fulfilment by retail giants such as Amazon.

Quite recently, more than 60 titles have disappeared from the Portuguese press because of the soaring price of paper and digital competition. More are soon to follow. It is the ending of yet another culture, the value of which will only be truly appreciated after the advance of the AI robots.

By Roberto Cavaleiro

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Roberto Cavaleiro first came to Portugal in 1982, acting as advisor to international investors. Current interests include animal welfare and writing opinion articles, especially with reference to environmental issues.