Tuesday 19th March: Digital’s hidden carbon footprint

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This is a piece I wrote for The Grub Street Journal’s ‘Why won’t print just lie down and die?’ issue. As you would expect, my inky little quarterly lays out all sorts of reasons why rather than giving up the ghost, print might be enjoying something of a revival. But this story is less about how great print is and more how the digital-good//print-bad propaganda that still permeates publishing is ‘kind of bollocks’.

It’s not hard to build a case against the eco-harm the digital media ecosystem does. A data-driven business employing 100 people full-time will generate about 2,203 tonnes of CO² a year – equivalent to flying from London to New York 2,600 times. Consider the energy needed to power used the world’s scrolling obsession and the device waste amped up by consumerism’s upgrade fetish then add in the carnage AI processing is set to wreak. The prosecution rests.

That’s all horrendous, but what bugs me more than anything is the ‘go digital, go green’ BS that is still used to this day to under cut print media. Of course printed magazines bring with them all sorts of environental implications, but at least the paper they are printed comes from renewable resources. Or maybe you’re of the school of envirovental activism that questions whether forestry is actually sustainable, unlike growing concrete.

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It’s hard sometimes to remember why a healthy news industry matters. This piece from Semafor’s Max Tani is a reminder of a slow decline of tough investigative journalism in the US. He says, “Rising risks of litigation and costs of insurance, which strapped media companies can hardly afford, to social media, which has given public figures growing leverage over the journalists who now increasingly carry their water. The result is… shrinking number of publications with the resources and guts to confront power.”

Authentic Brands Group, which owns the intellectual property rights to Sports Illustrated, has struck a long-term deal to license publishing rights to Minute Media. The license with will stretch for 10 years with an option to extend for up to 30 years total, into the magazine’s centenary. Asaf Peled, CEO of Minute Media, said in an interview that he planned to continue Sports Illustrated’s print edition. That’s very cool, but I wish he’d bring back Mental Floss in print too.

Who could possibly have guessed that using serving politicians to present news ‘risks undermining the integrity and credibility’ of regulated broadcast news. Well, OK, everyone except GB News knew. And now Ofcom has ruled against five programmes on GB news that featured Tory politicians acting as news presenters. *Don’t worry guys, you’ll be straight back on air after you lose your seats at the next election.

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