Kvetch of the Week: Move over, old man

About halfway through an otherwise uneventful “Talk to the Newsroom” live chat with readers, New York Times assistant managing editor Richard Berke got a virtual earful from a young journalist fanning the journo-generational wars that on occasion get lost amid the ongoing rows over old media vs. new media and paid vs. free content.

All of those disagreements have some overlap, but “Josh, New Orleans” wants to pin the blame for his decision to give up a newspaper career on the likes of Berke and others in mid- to late-career mode:

“I’m sorry for the bloviating, but here is my point: Newspapering as we knew it — its economic sustainability and moral righteousness — died sometime in the last decade. Yet the people who sank the ship, namely those of the baby-boomer, Woodward-and-Bernstein era, are still at the helm, and giving up their lofty newsroom positions only with cold, dead hands.

“I understand that youth is ill-served in management, often, but unlike those currently in charge, we haven’t already proved we’re incapable of steering newspapers back to cultural and economic viability.

“My question is, both cheekily and seriously, when will your generation quit and let my generation try all these ideas we have about how the news should be presented?”

That’s some good high-quality kvetching from someone so young. Especially the “cold, dead hands” part. Nice touch.

To his credit, Berke handles the matter tactfully, but does push back a little:

“But please, not the glue factory, not yet. Don’t wag your finger at me as if I were a disgraced Wall Street executive who wrecked the company and is now grabbing a fat bonus. Sure, I wish newspaper executives had made wiser decisions years ago that would have put us in a more robust financial position now. I wish we had better anticipated how dramatically our business model would change — and how technology and the web would turn our profession upside down. In our defense, we are journalists, not soothsayers.”

Read the entire chat here. Josh chimes in about halfway down. Berke also links to an analysis of this issue from Joshua Benton at the Nieman Lab, who urges the young to get beyond an institutional mindset (one that is supposedly more entrenched in my generation).

When I get a little blue about the state of my profession, it’s when I feel caught between the resistance of the mid-career print types who sneer at the Web and the digital native kids who think they have all the answers.


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