Hi all —

It’s been quite a couple of weeks in the world of journalism. PC Magazine is following the lead of the Christian Science Monitor, becoming the latest publication to accept the writing on the wall in making the decision to abandon its print product.

“The viability for us to continue to publish in print just isn’t there anymore,” Jason Young, chief executive of Ziff Davis, said in an interview. Welcome to the revolution, Jason.

It’s a little early for New Year’s predictions, but look for 2009 to be the “Year of Migration.” More and more newspaper execs are going to draw the conclusion that the future lies with online delivery.

And, as that happens, the lamenters will moan about the death of an industry. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, the death of print does not equal the death of journalism. In the true spirit of revolution, I say “Down with the Lamenters!

There is so much hand-wringing is going on these days over the future of the business. Yet, the lamenters wring their hands but don’t move forward. It’s like hanging out an Irish wake. Everyone is sitting around talking about the good old days.

We are in the midst of a revolution yet there is all this obsession over “How are we going to pay for everything?” Such concerns led one UMass journalism student to write: “I’m not fatalistic about journalism, but I’m hardly enthusiastic.” That’s depressing. Such attitudes are sweeping through the older generation of journalists who remain fearful of the future but it’s disappointing to see such attitudes beginning to influence the new generation of journalists.

To the student (who will remain unnamed) and to others, I say, get over it. Stop lamenting and start innovating. The future is now. It’s easy to sit back and whine about all the issues facing the industry and to speak fondly of days gone by where print was print and we all read and paid for classified ads in a nice an orderly way. Those days are gone. The old business models are gone. Print is going, going, soon to be gone. Time to join the revolution and develop the new models.

My good buddy David Cohn is part of a new wave of journalist/entrepreneurs who realize the old model is dead and is experimenting with ways to drag an industry historically resistant to change into a new model of doing business. His Spot.Us project expands the notion of crowdsourcing into crowdfunding. Will it work? Maybe. Maybe not. But, he’s decided to avoid the lamenters and to start innovating. In a recent blog post, Cohn said the key to the future of the industry lies in innovation and experimentation:

What we need right now is 10,000 journalism startups. Of these 9,000 will fail, 1,000 will find ways to sustain themselves for a brief period of time, 98 will find mediocre success and financial security and two will come out as new media equivalents to the New York Times. (The NY Times is part of this game, I’m not making a big/small media divide here, just using them as a standard).

Cohn, aka Digidave, is bullish about the future because of all the possibilities out there. It’s a revolution people! Patrick Thornton, aka The Journalism Iconoclast, writes that those standing in the way of progress need to get out of the way in a hurry:

If newspapers hope to survive these lean times, they must shed all remaining luddites and curmudgeons. Every employee will have to be a technologist. Newspapers can no longer afford to employ people who stand in the way of the future — in the way of progress.

If newspapers are to survive, their future will be radically different. That’s going to require radically different staffing. It’s going to require radically different thinking.

Time to get radical people! Time to re-frame our discussion here a bit and answer the question of: “With All These Changes Going On, How Do We Teach Journalism?” with a sense of excitement about the future. As educators and students we need to be pro-active and innovative. Are we going to join the revolution or sit on the sidelines?

Finally, I’ll pass along comments from an earlier post by Dennis Vandal, who very nicely lays out where we need to go:

  • I strongly suspect the present model may be unsustainable and that we may pay for selective services much the same way that broadcast television is free now. We may not like it one bit, but the medium is in its infancy and it is in its “we’re building it and they’re coming” phase. This period is presenting serious problems for the newspaper industry which has historically been truculent about change of any kind. The readers are switching over from print to web and newspaper companies are pretty much left holding the bag. They still have their presses and all their “legacy overhead” and they’re not too savy about building the value of new media and selling it well.
  • Some newspapers have understood for quite a few years that the change is coming. They will be around for a long time. They’ll figure it out. Remember radio and television? Thousands of television and radio stations been around for decades and they’re supported by advertisers. As for the newspapers run by clueless managers, they will fold and hard working employees with lose their jobs. That’s the bad part.

  • The good part is that a vacuum may well be created and filled by someone sharp, bright and responsive…and online.That where the analogy of the Wild West comes in handy. That was a shake out period and we’re facing another one now and we have no idea who the real winners and losers will be for sure. Our economic system is called capitalism but I prefer a somewhat more colorful term. I call it economic Darwinism. The future belongs to those of us who embrace the changes. We can be a part of be a part of that future but the road will be unconventional. It will be a time of entrepreneurial journalism and will be up to all of us to figure it out.

chrs,

Steve

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