One thing I learned from working at newspapers and magazines is that journalism school graduates write the least interesting stories. So I find it quite funny to learn that when it comes to new media, some at Columbia Journalism School are not rolling over easily.
But the push for modernization has also raised the ire of some professors, particularly those closely tied to Columbia’s crown jewel, RW1. “Fuck new media,” the coordinator of the RW1 program, Ari Goldman, said to his RW1 students on their first day of class, according to one student. Goldman, a former Times reporter and sixteen-year veteran RW1 professor, described new-media training as “playing with toys,” according to another student, and characterized the digital movement as “an experimentation in gadgetry.”
The Atlantic ponders the end of the NYT, and doesn’t see the sky falling. Nor do I. People will probably scoff at my attitude, but will the world be less whole if we no longer have print newspapers? I find it curious that many so-called media reformers idealize the heyday of diverse newspapers and a literate public, yet these memories seem largely hallucinatory. With the exception of rare investigative reporting that has done some social good, most newspapers have historically been large business that served mostly as stenographers of power, reinforcing dominant myths, not challenging them. However, though I lost my newspaper addiction long ago, I do sympathize with those who enjoy spending the morning with their Times. I don’t mean to be so flip, but newspapers are already off my radar. It think there are enough independent investigative and citizen sites to pick up the slack and do an even better job (as Katrina and Mumbai demonstrated). Nonetheless, there are some big losers in this scenario: ethnic newspapers and those off the grid. Yet I suspect if there is a market for niche papers, they will survive.
What would a post-print Times look like? Forced to make a Web-based strategy profitable, a reconstructed Web site could start mixing original reportage with Times-endorsed reporting from other outlets with straight-up aggregation. This would allow The Times to continue to impose its live-from-the-Upper-West-Side brand on the world without having to literally cover every inch of it. In an optimistic scenario, the remaining reporters—now reporters-cum-bloggers, in many cases—could use their considerable savvy to mix their own reporting with that of others, giving us a more integrative, real-time view of the world unencumbered by the inefficiencies of the traditional journalistic form. Times readers might actually end up getting more exposure than they currently do to reporting resources scattered around the globe, and to areas and issues that are difficult to cover in a general-interest publication.
PS I’m reposting Epic 2015 above as a reminder of how prescient that video was about the future of media
Click the above link to see what I consider to be one of the coolest presentations ever using simple desktop tools (the content doesn’t much interest me). The potential for this kind of vlogging is incredibly appealing because it allows for addressing the audience via webcame while showing videos and documents. Brilliant!
Craig Newmark, of Craigslist, says that â€œjournalism needs to become a community service rather than a profit centre,â€ and is working on making this happen. As The State of the News Media puts it, â€œthe worry is not the wondrous addition of citizen media, but the decline of full-time, professional monitoring of powerful institutions.â€ That, after all, is what a free press in democracies is supposed to be for.
Some stories lend themselves to great headlines (“Cocaine cola a real buzz” for instance), but the demise of the Village Voice tends to not offer much humor (except in the Twainian sense of “news of my death is greatly exagerated”). I have mixed feelings. For those of you outside the Manhattan echo chamber, the Voice’s storied tradition of radical politics and culture was absorbed by a national chain of weekly urban “independents,” New Times Media based in Phoenix. The company also owns the LA Weekly, Seattle Weekly and SF Weekly among others. Many are alarmed by the firing of long-time investigative reporter, James Ridgeway. Add to the mix resignations, articles with bogus anecdotes, a shift in priorities and the international trend of media consolidation, and you get one pissed off crowd of readers. Plus New Yorkers are a tough audience to please. Go to a Yankees game and you will know what I mean.
Implicit in the following LA Times story is a lament from the industry (yet more evidence that all media do is report on themselves) that the era of an informed citizenry is a thing of the past because there will be no infrastructure for information gathering. Corporate media love to think of themselves as the saviors of civilization, but I challenge the assumptions that a) information makes us better citizens, and b) information makes us more knowledgeable.
Media are in the business of self-defining their own reality and defining the “public.” They want us to buy into their self-importance. Of course they will be pissed that people stop reading the spun-out nonsense that fills space between ads. It takes me exactly five minutes to read a newspaper, and another five minutes to grieve for the loss of tree pulp that created it.
PS One of the fringe benefits of a declining print press:
“A ‘new paradox of journalism’ has emerged in which the number of news outlets continues to grow, yet the number of stories covered and the depth of many reports is decreasing, according to an annual review of the news business being released today by a watchdog group.”