Every week, I come across another blog comment where someone says they wish that old media would just hurry up and die already.
It’s not just that they know it should be dead. It’s that often they seem to have limited vision of what would replace it. It will be… social media! New media! Unfiltered access to press releases, each with their own take on the news! A thousand points of light!
That “old media is dead” is often intoned by someone who is surfing around, reading content that someone took time to link to — blogs, news sites, possibly even the online arm of some terrible dead old media — like BusinessWeek or the New York Times or WIRED or Rolling Stone — allows me to — well, write them off. Or at least roll my eyes.
So this week, when I read that comment from another self-satisfied, snarky, there can-be-only-one-true-Ring/media/blog/whatever Clay or HeWhoMustNotBeNamedsays — but in this case, it was from a journalism student — it at least got my attention. *
In theory, J-school students are paying good money — as I once did — to learn the ethics, and laws, and standards, and tactics…
… of a dying profession.
Someone in J-school should be thinking about how to morph this field they’re entering. How to do what they love, as the saying goes, so that the money — some money, at least — will follow. So having a J-School student eager to pronounce “old media” dead reminded me of that scene in Monty Python and the Holy Grail:
“Look ‘ere, ‘e says he’s not dead!”
“He will be soon. He’s very ill.”
(man) “I’m getting better! I don’t want to go on the cart!”
“Don’t be such a baby!… Look, isn’t there something you can do?”
(at which point the cart driver clocks the older man on the head, and he’s laid — now presumably dead — on the cart)
This student pointed out that in the age of Twitter, we no longer need “old media.” By the time they get to the news, he pointed out, it’s old already.
Wow, he’s going to be some reporter, eh? Can’t get anything by him.
I don’t want to sound all naggy, but there are some things the New York Times does better than nearly any organization on the planet. And many other “old media” that do really damn good reporting. Including broadcast.
Just because they need to figure out a new way to make money, doesn’t mean the reporting is dead or even wrong — just the vehicle. Suppose every time a car died, we shot its owner? Yeah, that’s stupid too.
I mean making me aware of aspects of the news I hadn’t thought of, because I don’t have access to it. The New York Times and its ilk can open doors that you and I can’t open — and that should be opened. Westword, my local “alternative newsweekly,” has been doing great reporting for 30 years.
On a completely different level, a local newspaper (or blog, if everyone in the community has a computer) unites a community in a way that niche blogs or multi-media cannot.
Old media does have to figure out something new. Not just “let’s make them pay for content,” though that’s a start. The first step in innovation is usually incremental; and the next step will be more radical.
* * *
Gordon Crovitz, Steven Brill and Leo Hindery aligned last week behind a pay-wall. Don’t know whether you’d pay for Gordon Crovitz? Maybe you’d pay for others. I probably would. And the AP building its own aggregator? They’re totally onto something: stop AP content and, in this magical world of downsizing that is contemporary journalism, you have just choked off 1/3 of most American news — papers and sites– at least.
Whatever we come up with, we’ll need the old media, new media, social media — and probably something that hasn’t even been labeled yet — plus our brand new J-school peeps to deliver this excellent new model.
Something hopefully more imaginative than clonking old media over the head and throwing it on the cart.