For those still following the small-picture “death of the newspaper industry” tragedy while the much larger “collapse of the global economy” unfolds around it, there is a worthwhile exchange unfolding between Jeff Jarvis and Dave Winer (starts with Jeff here, Dave answers here, Jeff responds, Dave replies).
It’s all food for thought but I want to highlight an analogy Dave raises today, which has, I think, a great clarity:
Imagine a group of doctors knew that all hospitals and pharmacies were about to shut down. What would they do? Might they do something to make sure their client’s health needs were at least partially attended to?
The same would presumably apply to many other professions, whose services are in some way necessary for life: police, fire, bus drivers, garbage collectors.
We’re often asked to believe how noble the profession of news is — now that is about to be tested in a whole new way. Are we just supposed to cry for this industry and throw our hands up and wait for the collapse before starting to put it back together, or would they like to help while they’re still here?
What’s valuable about this analogy is that it reminds journalists that they are actors in this drama, not victims. Victimhood is written deeply in the culture of the newsroom. It’s always the fault of the guys with the green eyeshades, or the publishers, or the advertisers, or even the readers.
Well, at this point, it hardly matters whose fault it is. Many of these ships are going down fast. If you’re a journalist who cares about the field as a vocation in the old sense (something to which you are called, and to which you feel a responsibility), if you believe that an informed public is a prerequesite for a functioning democracy, then think about Dave’s question. I am.
One of my formative professional experiences was working on the San Francisco Free Press in 1994. When the Newspaper Guild called a strike against the Examiner, where I worked, and the Chronicle (a strike over the jobs of truck drivers!), the Guild decided to publish a strike paper. We published a few editions on paper, but we posted daily on the Web. (The Well still has it up.) We did it partly because it was fun, but partly because we felt a responsibility to our community to keep providing it with news and information. That responsibility remains, whatever happens to the business model of the newspaper industry.
- December 12, 2008 @ 10:41:34 [Current Revision] by Scott Rosenberg
- December 2, 2008 @ 12:54:18 by Scott Rosenberg