J-School: Educating Independent Journalists

“If tools could make anyone who picked them up an expert, they’d be valuable indeed.” Plato, The Republic

The Future of Journalism

Posted by chanders on September 3, 2008

I’ve been working up to this single paragraph for the last several weeks, and I’ll admit, it hasn’t been easy. But think if you asked me what I thought about the future of journalism this is what I’d answer.

C. Wright Mills style, I’ve pasted the paragraph below, and have then preceded to translate it out of academic wankery and into normal human talk. So here we go:

We have now come fact to face with the tremendous paradox of online newswork: the maw of the internet, with its endless need for more and more content to fill its bottomless pages at faster and faster speeds, has run up against the increasing inability of media organizations to rationalize the production of that content through traditional methods—i.e., through the payment of the wage. We have entered a journalistic moment in which news institutions need more and more material and yet, to obtain it, find themselves ever more dependent on alliances with what appear to be “spontaneous,” derationalized, volunteer news producers. The stability and permanence of journalistic networks– whether they be community blogs, radical news websites, or more traditional media organizations—will depend on news producers rediscovering a means of providing formal monetary compensation for newswork, or rationalizing the production of news through alternate, non-wage means, or, finally, bypassing bureaucratic rationality in the production of cultural goods. The first two possibilities require organizational adjustment; the third would necessitate nothing less than the transcendence the dominant motif of late modern age.

Or, in other words:

The internet has helped create a situation in journalism where you need more and more news but have less money to pay for it. If news organizations are going to survive they need to find new ways to pay people. Or they need to find ways to get people to regularly do journalism without money. Or, they need to create a new world in which the boring humdrum of daily work is smashed and is replaced by a world of spontaneity, joyful creation, true democracy, and freedom.  The first two possibilities are far more likely than the third, but hey, why not aim high?

One Response to “The Future of Journalism”

  1. kegill said

    Christopher, I’d argue that this state of affairs somewhat predictably evolved from having one, and then multiple, 24×7 cable “news” channels.

    Is it necessarily true that an unlimited (for some definition of unlimited) communication “space” leads directly to drivel?

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