Optimist to a fault

Here’s a Washington Post interview with me today, bringing out my optimism for journalism. Snippets:

Will journalism still make money?

I’m running a project on new business models for news to try to determine just that. It will primarily come from advertising still. The future of news in a market will not be one product from one company — I believe it will be an ecosystem of many projects. Foundation and publicly supported efforts will take up small but important aspects. . . .

You have a number of outspoken critics. What’s the harshest thing you’ve heard?

Being accused of dancing on the graves of journalists’ careers. I’m not. I’m training journalists. But it’s probably time for tough love. The problem is that journalism should have been reinventing itself utterly for this new media economy, and it didn’t. And you know it was probably naive of me to think that it could.

You had a long newspaper and magazine career yourself. What is it like to talk with former colleagues?

I just had that experience. I was in Mountain View to give a book talk at Google’s campus. So I went from that to the next day I saw an old friend from my days at the [San Francisco] Examiner who’s now at the Chronicle. After lunch we went up to the newsroom — and I blogged this — I was struck, saddened, by the darkness, dankness and dust of the newsroom versus the bright sunshine of the Googleplex. It made me sad. People I worked with who are very smart and cared a great deal are feeling quite stuck now and they didn’t have to. That’s what gets me.

I believe we should train them for this new world and it’s not hard to learn it. I’m 54 years old and I carry my flip video camera and I blog and live-blog and I Twitter, and I learned it, too, and so can any of these journalists. . . .

In your newspaper career, did you ever write obits?

Oh yeah.

Does it feel similar? The process of making people understand what’s happening to newspapers?

It’s actually the exact opposite. I’m writing a birth notice. With the Internet come incredible opportunities. And I can be an obnoxious optimist about this, and I know I am, but I really believe that. . . .

  • I like the optimistic side, most appealing
    When I saw in my reader you had another post
    I thought, oh God!
    Whats he gonna rail on this time
    So it was refreshing to read a positive slant
    On an admittedly dire situation.


    • I’m always positive about the future of journalims. That just doesn’t necessarilly equate with the future of newspapers.

  • Jeff,

    This is the first post I have read in a long time that is upbeat about the future of journalism. Thank you for it.

  • Jeff, sure it’s the right time for some optimism. You’re quite right where you say this is a time of great opportunity’s. Sure, there will be money to be earned by journalism. As long as it will be better stories better told (i.e. not yesterday’s news being told by Reuters feed, but investigative stories told in a way that’s unavoidable).

    One of my approaches in the Netherlands is that journalists could learn a lot by all the great storytelling that the New Journalism showed us twenty or more years ago. That’s added value.

    The harshest question people will ask you, the one they ask me on this side of the Atlantic, is of course this one: show me the money, show me the easy money, make me feel safe for the rest of my carreer. The only honest answer anybody is: I cannot, there’s no easy way out, just optimism.

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  • McCourtney

    So what’s your take on the future of cyber journalism in light of Senate bills #773 and # 778, Jeff?

  • I was “away” from writing for a decade (former newspaper columnist and free-lancer). I started up again just 5 months ago and had to immediately immerse myself in learning computers, blogging, how to submit to ebooks, ezines, the whole shebang — and this from a totally non-techy, whiny, woman who didn’t know how to cut and paste on this thing! Its time for ALL writers to dive in or die. I think your interview was as positively encouraging for writers to do this as it possibly could be. The changes they are acomin’ and the wise will hop on the train or be left in the dust.