As another ‘future of journalism’ gabfest goes on . . .

Today and tomorrow the Federal Trade Commission is conducting its very own “Future of Journalism” extravaganza with all the usual suspects, and from the live Tweeting I’ve seen they’re not saying anything all that new, as important as the topic may be.

Spicing up the festivities, however, was Queen Arianna’s clash with Rupert Murdoch this morning:

“Having Glenn Beck not searchable on Google is a really good thing for democracy, but as a business move, it is not a smart move.”

Oh, how we love Huffington so! Especially since she echoed her frequent refrain that the only news people will pay for is “specialized financial content and weird porn.” In one of Rupert’s most vociferous precincts, Queen Arianna is being accused of emphasizing a whole lotta flesh in building her own media empire. There’s too much irony here to go on this way.

If these folks are on the vanguard of the future of journalism, then we’ve all got real trouble, in addition to the usual litany of concerns embodied in the following links that have caught my attention via Delicious, Google Reader and Twitter:

• Douglas Rushkoff has kick-started an old debate about paying for the news by taking sides with Murdoch. Naturally, that has Jay Rosen all stirred up. So has this, from one of Uncle Rupert’s top Leftenants, which takes straight aim at the digital utopians. They don’t like that very much.

• Once a frequent whipping boy of the online news sages, David Carr of the New York Times apparently has been handed a key to the club after predicting a happy ending to the present gloomy media scenario, because the children are our future. Alan Mutter may have to turn in his membership card for arguing just the reverse, because the children don’t have much of a future. The Newsosaur is about as dour as I’ve read him, and that’s saying something. I think there’s some truth to both of these takes, as contrary as they are to one another.

• Recent layoffs of multimedia staff at the Washington Post are a troublesome sign that the print overlords at a news organization that seemed to get the Web just don’t value the work of digital journalists. Regina McCombs, one of my multimedia instructors from a Poynter Institute workshop I attended last year, writes that online producers and editors she hears from are feeling this way all around the country. (This also factored into my decision last year to accept a buyout.) I’ve argued this before and I’ll repeat it here: It’s time for the geeks to start running newsrooms. Old media managerial hands just keep fumbling the Web, but they’re unlikely to loosen their grip during these increasingly desperate times.

• At least the newly renamed PBS NewsHour is embracing the Web, even if Jim Lehrer isn’t interested in Twitter. It’s going to be a messy transition, but it sounds more promising than what’s happening in another D.C. newsroom.

• How easy is it for a small-town journalist to start a one-person news operation? As easy as this? I’m finding out that while the fundamentals laid out here are solid, there’s no guarantee for success. Journalists who have some money saved up, time to work out their concept and can rely on support from friends, family and others stand the best chance of making something work. But these experiments have only just begun, and will continue to proliferate. As will the chaos.


3 thoughts on “As another ‘future of journalism’ gabfest goes on . . .

  1. Loving the worldweary affectations in your prose. You sound very very tired of this discussion you feel compelled to join. Probably from all that crap detecting.

    You might have mentioned that I’m in favor of Murdoch taking the Bing cash and pulling out of Google, if that deal is indeed on offer. I think we might learn something from it. I’m doubtful that the switch would be a net plus for News Corp., but I certainly don’t know that, and I think we need to find out.

    I thought Rushkoff’s piece was interesting and made important points. My beef with it was that he posed as an the opponent of an “information wants to be free” crowd, which is a professional fiction, rather than tangling with real people and their arguments. The arguments that he mentions can be found, but the people who make them aren’t information wants to be freepers.


  2. Heck if it’s easy. 🙂

    From personal experience I can say that regardless of how great your writing is OR how popular your site is, attracting advertisers is difficult business. If you’re a journo out there looking to start a local news site/blog expect to spend about at LEAST 30%-40% of your time on selling ads. Some folks might come to you looking to advertise, but for the most part, you’ll have to get out on the street and sell your wares. Even though your medium is online, nothing sells like face-time.

    But regardless, if you’re thinking about getting out there and starting a local news site, now is the time to do it. As long as you don’t have strong competition, you can learn from your mistakes and create a site that suits your community. Eventually advertisers will come, but not without a good bit of work on your part.

    BTW…thanks for this site Wendy. You’re always right on target…proven by the fact that Tracey at WSB often chimes in here. Keep up the great work!


  3. Thanks for the clarification Jay. I was intrigued by Rushkoff’s rationale since I’m one of those content creators trying to figure out how to make a go of it post-newspapers. However, I’m not sure I could ever be as world weary as you are about the Church of the Savvy.

    And thanks also to DM for the kind words. We need to get together sometime soon; I know there’s a lot I can from what you’ve been doing.


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