Clay Shirky Speaking The Unspeakable Truth About Journalism and Newspapers

14 03 2009


Clay Shirky just posted this thoughtful piece on journalism, the newspaper industry and its business model and the “revolution” that is taking place before our eyes.

I urge you to read the entire post, it’s very well articulated, clear and a great read. Here are a few of my favorite excerpts:

Revolutions create a curious inversion of perception. In ordinary times, people who do no more than describe the world around them are seen as pragmatists, while those who imagine fabulous alternative futures are viewed as radicals. […]

When reality is labeled unthinkable, it creates a kind of sickness in an industry. Leadership becomes faith-based, while employees who have the temerity to suggest that what seems to be happening is in fact happening are herded into Innovation Departments, where they can be ignored en masse. This shunting aside of the realists in favor of the fabulists has different effects on different industries at different times. One of the effects on the newspapers is that many of its most passionate defenders are unable, even now, to plan for a world in which the industry they knew is visibly going away.[…]

Society doesn’t need newspapers. What we need is journalism. […]

When we shift our attention from ’save newspapers’ to ’save society’, the imperative changes from ‘preserve the current institutions’ to ‘do whatever works.’ And what works today isn’t the same as what used to work. […]

Shirky also discusses the digital landscape and its ramifications to the industry’s demise.

As a former reporter myself, I look upon this revolution in awe, shock, anger and frustration. It is clear the relationship between journalism and newspapers is coming to an end — or at least as it has been manifested previously. No one knows which model will fill the void come the collapse of the industry, as Shirky suggests; however, I’m optimistic — call it blind — that the foundation of good journalism and the need for investigative reporting will survive the transformation.




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