I’m frustrated these last few days by the discussion online about newspapers and the future of journalism. It’s just such a retread.
Britannica’s blog — yes, even they have a blog — invited a handful of commentators to pontificate, doling it out as if it were a newspaper series (remember them? they were kinda like miniseries, only in black & white). What I want to hear is ideas for the future, not restating of the problem or the worries, but that’s mostly what we got. Nick Carr led it off with his predictable lamentation about change. Jon Talton — apparently a computerized algorithm with a name — recycled every blog complaint since 1999. Well, that’s helpful. Jay Rosen wondered about business models, which is on point (though the Britannica people, with their access to all the world’s wisdom, might have wanted to bring in some economists and business geniuses to try to answer his questions). At least Clay Shirky pushed for experimentation. And even former Tribune columnist Charles Madigan, after issuing what he seems to think is a required snark about the audacity of citizens daring to speak, has some ideas (he wants to make money for a free print paper by charging people to make wedding videos, arguing that it’s so hard to learn; I hereby invite Charlie to a CUNY class where we’ll teach him in no time). But it’s just so old, not moving the peanut down the street.
Meanwhile, friends Chris Anderson and Howard Weaver find kismet arguing that the state of the newspaper business isn’t as bad as some say. Well, a discussion of how bad bad is isn’t terribly helpful, either. What we need is discussion of ideas and action.
We must move past this pining for the past and shrugging about the future. We also have to stop seeing newspapers as the center of the news universe. More on this later.