Last month’s release of the State of the News Media 2009 from the PEW Project for Excellence in Journalism made me realize that I have reached a landmark in my experiment in blogging on the transition taking place in the news world.
It has been more than a year since I first conjectured to “heat up the debate between old and new media”. I laugh looking back. I cringe at the thought of reading through posts from this period of naiveté! What a simplistic view of the growing pains being felt by an entire institution of society, the decline and fall of the great empires of the fourth estate, the inevitable loss of power as described by Ibn Khaldun.
During this year, the economy has collapsed, several newspapers have moved to online-only publications, legacy news organizations have threatened to close, and I wasn’t admitted into the Ph.D. program through which I wanted to study this crisis of journalism culture. If you think that’s hard not to take personally, just consider that the San Francisco Chronicle, where I did my internship, might shutter its doors after losing US$one million a week in 2008, and The San Diego Union-Tribune, where I had my first job, was sold to some private equity firm!?
But what has shocked me most is that the discourse on which direction news media should move does not seem to be based on any particular principles, forget a coherent conceptual framework for discussion and action! This is unacceptable for a social institution meant to mirror the processes of the advancement of civilization.
Speaking of action, in truth it is with deeds not words that industry leaders will be able to learn what economic model and structure of values will carry journalism into the future. Incessant and fruitless debate has done nothing for the fields of philosophy, governance and development, and it has paralyzed the news industry as well.
Perhaps we as news women and men are too afraid of making a mistake. That paranoia is so deeply ingrained into our being as reporters and editors–once you make an error, you can’t take it back; one small mistake can cost you your career–that it has crippled our ability to learn. How else can an industry in such dire need of change evolve and mature if a degree of mistakes are not tolerated? We need to challenge this fundamental assumption in our professional ideology.
This blog is about rooting out and examining this and other assumptions. A year into recording my thoughts on the future of journalism, I feel I finally have something to offer to this discourse. I hope there will be readers and feedback.