How Journalism Will Survive

Posted on April 17, 2008 
Filed Under Journalism

Lisa Williams, the founder of Placeblogger, and H2Otown draws an interesting parallel of the tech industry in the 80s and 90s and the news business today:

“When our central institutions blew up, people asked many of the same questions I hear among journalists today. Without these institutions, who will fund the mission? How will we attract the talent we need to make the transition? Just as journalism without newspapers seems inconceivable now, it seemed inconceivable to many then that innovation could continue without the might, resources, and sheer heft of the companies that formed the core of the high tech industry. Who would write the next operating system? Create the next generation of microprocessors? Today, journalists ask how democracy will fare in a country without a robust free press. Then, technologists asked how the United States could retain its leadership position without big, powerful computing companies.

“There’s no underestimating the pain of the tech implosion: people who got laid off expected to be out of work for a year or more; people lost their houses, got divorced, left the industry entirely; lucky ones took early retirement packages. To make matters worse, many of them had deep loyalties to the companies they worked for and spoke with pride of the “HP way,” the “IBM way.” The breakdown also wasn’t sudden: from beginning to end the dismantling took nearly a decade.

“We decamped from the Titanic and dispersed in every direction in a fleet of kayaks: small, self-propelled, and iceberg-proof. We learned to be loyal to our friends and to the ideas and ideals that we had genuine passion for: because it was our friends who were going to pull us out of the cold water, and our ideas that would get us going again after a setback.

“What we discovered, of course, was that innovation survived the death of its institutions….On the decks of a career Titanic, you don’t have much choice but to sit back and let others ensure your safety and set your course. With a career in a kayak, you can and must set your own direction and learn the skills to keep yourself safe. You’ll discover what thousands upon thousands of tech workers discovered: you can do great work outside of an institutional, big-company context, and you can make a living doing so. High tech companies didn’t own innovation; the innovators did. News organizations don’t own journalism: journalists do.”


Additional links on the same topic at “Are newspapers doomed (do we care?”:

1. Nicholas Carr: “The Great Unbundling: Newspapers & the Net
2. Clay Shirky: “What Newspapers & Journalism Need Now: Experimentation, not Nostalgia
3. Jay Rosen: “Newspapers & the Net: Where’s the Business Model, People?”
4. Jon Talton: “When I Hear the Term ‘Citizen Journalist,’ I Reach For My Pistol!
5. Charles M. Madigan: “Why Almost Everyone is Wrong About Newspapers & the Internet
6. Mary Stuckey: “How Technology and Online News Saved Political Rhetoric
7. Colette Bancroft: “Reading Ain’t Dead: Books, Newspapers, and the Net
8. Caryle Murphy: “Foreign Correspondents & the Information Revolution
9. Jennifer Saba: “Look at the Numbers: Why Print Will Continue to Matter to Newspapers


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