Tag Archives: jay rosen

The utopia of the engaged elite

In his final retort to Jay Rosen during a recent online journalism debate at The Economist, Nick Carr tries to throw water on all the clucking that we’re in a golden age of journalism:

“Outside the new-media hothouse, people do not have the luxury of spending their waking hours tweeting, blogging, commenting, or cobbling together a Daily Me from a welter of sites and feeds. They are holding down jobs (or trying to find jobs). They have kids to raise, parents to care for, friends to keep up with, homes to clean. When they have spare time to catch up on the news, they often confront a wasteland. Their local paper has closed or atrophied. The newscasts on their local TV stations seem mainly concerned with murders, traffic jams and thunderstorms. Cable news shows present endless processions of blowhards. America’s once-mighty news magazines are out of business or spectres of their former selves.”

And there’s this:

“I understand how a member of the plugged-in elite would assume the internet has improved journalism. If you spend hours a day consuming news and producing opinions, the net provides you with endless choices, diversions and opportunities for self-expression. For the news junkie, the net is a crack house that dispenses its wares for free. But if you look beyond the elite, you see a citizenry starved of hard, objective reporting. For the typical person, the net’s disruptions have meant not a widening of options but a narrowing of them.”

I’m not totally on board with Carr’s blanket assertion that “net has eroded journalism’s foundations.” And his last sentence deserves a fuller critique than what I’m examining here.

Those building blocks have been under assault for a few decades in the old media world, with corporate excess and poor management far more devastating than any technological developments that have driven down the cost, and value, of content.

While I’m not in the plugged-in elite, I do see the potential for reshaping solid journalism on the web. I agree that Rosen, perched safely in tenured academia, does get carried away — willfully, I think — with his certitudes about new ways of doing the news. It’s easy for him to get excited, since his livelihood doesn’t depend on whether those experiments succeed or not.

Since leaving print behind three years ago, I’ve been involved in a few very limited efforts, most of which never had a chance and in fact never got off the ground. Currently I am making a living with one of the more ambitious projects to date, and this opportunity was not easy to come by after two years without steady employment.

While I remain hopeful about the possibilities — as well as the necessity — for something to work, I also operate with the daily reminder that none of this is guaranteed.

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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.