Still, the professional/consumer model only works if a moneyed elite is willing to pay for privileged access to information, whether that is a faster Reuters news flash or richer data on a Bloomberg terminal or a personal audience with a wise-cracking Charlie Cook. Wenig concedes that much of what his clients prize has little impact on the health of the demos: “The price of uranium matters a lot to a uranium trader, but it is not of much interest to a wider public.”

Wenig believes that “there has always been an information divide. There has always been a social and capital structure to information.” He’s not sure how the Internet-driven transformation of the media business will influence that divide, but “I can see an argument that says… maybe the Internet is widening it.”

Conventional wisdom says the Internet is making information more widely available, but that it also may be reducing the quality of that information and the number of people—journalists—paid to produce it. But if the professional/consumer model moves further into the news business, perhaps something close to the opposite will be true: more high-quality information will exist, and it will be produced by more well-trained and well-compensated journalists. But their work will be available—first and in the greatest detail—to the small group of people able to pay a lot of money for it.

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Chrystia Freeland , the former U.S. managing editor for the Financial Times, is global editor-at-large for Thomson Reuters.