Are We Talking About Dead Trees or Journalism? – News Revolution

March 16, 2009

deadtree

Why aren’t more journalists overwhelmingly excited to be alive and practicing their craft right now? We are living in the middle of a revolution — not just for the production of news as a business, but for the entire world. The way people communicate, learn, live, grow and appreciate… it’s all changing because of the Internet and we are bearing witness to the birth of a new era.

Start acting like it.

I’m serious. Why the hell are we talking about what happens when newspapers are gone? They are made from dead trees. They do not define our role as journalists. After reading Clay Shriky’s  blog post Newspapers and Thinking the Unthinkable , I can’t help but think the old guard is holding us back…

“When someone demands to know how we are going to replace newspapers, they are really demanding to be told that we are not living through a revolution. They are demanding to be told that old systems won’t break before new systems are in place. They are demanding to be told that ancient social bargains aren’t in peril, that core institutions will be spared, that new methods of spreading information will improve previous practice rather than upending it. They are demanding to be lied to.

There are fewer and fewer people who can convincingly tell such a lie.“

Everything just *clicked* in my mind after reading that paragraph, which is not particularly awe inspiring, especially if you’ve been plugged in to the media machines who’s warrior employees are the very same people that want to be lied to.

And they do — they want to be lied to about the newspaper industry’s relevance, so they create a master plan to save the old institution. This plan fails, and we get an article much like Kathleen Parker’s column in the Washington Post in which she labels newspaper reporting and editing as the essential linchpin to keeping society free and open.

“But the greater truth is that newspaper reporters, editors and institutions are responsible for the boots-on-the-ground grub work that produces the news stories and performs the government watchdog role so crucial to a democratic republic.

Unfortunately, the chorus of media bashing from certain quarters has succeeded in convincing many Americans that they don’t need newspapers…”

Yes, this may be true of “boots-on-the-ground grub work” right now, but saying it will disappear completely is like saying food will cease to exist if farmers stop producing crops as a profession.

I’m sorry, Ms. Parker, but we don’t need newspapers. We don’t need linchpins to keep a complex process working to ensure there is a watchdog role. What we need is for everyone to start watching.

What we need — what we have — is a revolution.

We are at the very base of the biggest change in society since the printing presses emerged and telephone lines divorced communication from time and space. Individually we have the ethical conditioning to lead the way better than anyone else, yet, most of us are ignoring it or worse, refusing to let the old era go.

What will happen when newspapers do eventually die? Who cares. If your purpose is ensuring the presence of good journalism, start acting revolutionary.

Original Image Credit: Louisa Catlover (via Flickr)

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