What’s missing from the debate over paying for the news

Why aren’t the publishers, general managers and ad directors at newspapers more involved in the latest discussion about them — how to finance their journalism — that’s raging red-hot in the Journosphere? David Johnson of the Lost Remote blog wants to know.

Good question. He says it’s just the “journalists, online evangelists and converts, entrepreneurs, and even the readers themselves” who are doing the talking — quite often within their own spheres of influence.

But I would hesitate to put journalists at the front of that lineup. Or even in it at all.

For the last two weeks, as this topic has boiled over, I’ve been hard-pressed to find much discussion about journalists at all, except in passing. As the new media sages continue to club “printies” over the head because of some suggestions by the latter about paying for content, either in print or online — and this has been rehashed before — very few workaday journalists are being heard.

Neither are those from the business side of news organizations, much to the chagrin of Johnson, who’s weary of the renewed partisan bickering:

“Journalists are expenses, customers are audience, and advertisers are the clients of the publishers in our business. This is a money question, and the money people are not the voices that are standing out. If you have good sources where they’re talking, please round them up in the comments so we can benefit.”

A few journalist-centric views — and they are rare — are here and here.

There need to be more journalists in the trenches, and those eager to find new ways of funding the work we’re doing as entrepreneurial writers/editors/bloggers/etc., elbowing their way into this “conversation.” Such as it is. So this may be the first part of a multiple-part series of posts from yours truly on this subject.

However, I’ve got a couple freelance deadlines to meet right now. Oh, how the act of journalism inconveniently intrudes into all the talk about it!

In the meantime, help yourself to some good roundups of this kerfuffle here and here.

And here’s something else to chew on: some thoughtful observations from ex-journo John Zhu about what we will miss about newspapers and the journalism — and the journalists — they once sustained:

“If you’re a citizen journalism advocate who thinks that citizen journalists can replace professional journalists, then, well, there’s not much I can say to convince you that the public will miss the work of tens of thousands of pro journalists when they’re taken out of circulation.

“However, if you are in the more reasonable group who believes that both citizen and pro journalists have a valuable role in informing the public, then surely you, too, must be concerned about a potential massive loss of pro journalists.”


3 thoughts on “What’s missing from the debate over paying for the news

  1. I’ll readily admit to not being a journalism (I assume that’s why I’m in that group of links), and I’ll also admit to writing an insanely long post to explain myself, but I do want to point out that I’m not throwing a hissy-fit about charging for content, in fact I’m trying to encourage it.

    My gripe with Time is with the way he suggests we go about charging users: It certainly can’t be micropayments.

    Also, I’ll note that a lot of journalists and publishers and, essentially, people who should be talking about this kind of stuff, actually ARE talking about this stuff.

    But they’re hampered in talking about it because they have actual business interests involved. In other words, if I’m Rupert Murdoch, even if I’m thinking hard about this problem with my top staff and board of directors, I’m not going to be sharing my revelations with my competitors. It’s business, after all.


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