Change Is Hard

And it is inevitable.  As I was reading my newspaper this morning (yes, an actual printed newspaper) I decided to check the Newspaper Death Watch website and see which newspapers have died recently.  As you will see, some are now Web only and others are simply gone.  And it’s a pretty long list. 

Just so you don’t think I’m a complete dinosaur, you should know that I get a lot of information from the Web.   Yet, I still find comfort in the tactile act of paging through an actual newspaper.  It soothes me and forces me to go beyond the sound bite and think a bit… something not generally required or desired in today’s world of gotcha journalism.

As I thought about this I remembered this  piece by Clay Shirky.  It is probably the best thing I’ve ever read about the demise of newspapers and how to think about the future of journalism.  In a few pages he took me from the Bible to Gutenberg to the Internet.  Near the end, Shirky wraps it up with this profoundly simple notion: “Society doesn’t need newspapers.  What we need is journalism.”

How true.  

What used to be journalism (news) is being replaced by lots of adjectives and exclamation point-ridden, italicized shouting and hyperbole.  Television news is largely occupied by increasingly polarizing, agenda touting, gossipy, mean-spirited, self-important gas bags.  Actual news and thoughtful and balanced commentary is becoming anachronistic. 

The Internet is populated by nearly 200 million blogs(none as well written as mine).  The ones purporting to be about the news are too often rant-holes… places that unhappy, angry people rant away about everything they hate. 

I don’t really have an answer to the future of journalism.  As Shirky says it “will be made up of overlapping special cases… No one experiment is going to replace what we are now losing with the demise of news on paper, but over time, the collection of new experiments that do work might give us the journalism we need.”

What do you think?  I’d love to hear your thoughts on this change.  Certainly we can do better than what we are too often seeing that passes for responsible news these days.


2 responses to this post.

  1. Jan –

    Couldn’t agree more that we need journalism.

    What we don’t need are contrived stories based on some preconceived notion, all disguised as “investigative journalism”

    What we don’t need is opinion labeled as news. I’m all for opinion, but it needs to stay on the editorial and op.ed. pages.

    What we don’t need is sloppy writing, split verbs, and 300 words when 150 would suffice.

    Thanks for raising the issue.



  2. Hey there,

    I think blogs and reality tv have poisened the well. So many more venues, but not more news. Thus, a huge demand for content. And the content these days sucks. People have become jaded, cynical and passive and seem to either tune out altogether or only listen to extreme garbage. Sigh.


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