Here we go

8 04 2009

I’ve started this blog to collect thoughts on the place of the journalist or publicist in the continually changing world of communications.

Many years have passed since I first observed that the lines between bona fide journalism and opinion, entertainment, and public relations were rapidly dissolving, as were distinctions among print, broadcast, on online media.

Only recently, however, have I come to realize that we’ve passed the so-called tipping point. We way we have done business no longer works.

Many people much smarter than I are commenting on this  every day, but I continue to feel no one has correctly pointed the way, if that is even possible.

The questions, and the stakes, are enormous:

  • What is journalism today, and how can we identify it?
  • How do we brand credibility?
  • Can democracy survive without an identifiable Fourth Estate?
  • How is capitalism related to journalism?
  • How do we pay for journalism?
  • Does advertising still work? For how long?
  • Must multiplicity of media result in selective ignorance?

Whew. I don’t have the answers. I don’t intend to simply convey my own musings here. But I will pass along thoughts and developments related to these  issues as I stumble across them.

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2 responses

9 04 2009
matthew frederick

Enormous questions indeed.

One aspect/perspective which (I feel) seems to be lacking in discussing most of these enormous questions is a more historical perspective. For example, I would argue that the conventional conceptual definition of such a word as “journalism” is really only about fifty years old, when the job of news reporting developed into a “profession” (and more of an “institution”). This was not necessarily a bad development. In fact, we can point to all kinds of positive things (standards, sophistication, etc.) that an ethic of “professionalism” brings to a line of work that previously was merely a “job.” There are some potential drawbacks to the professional model too, however. Any profession tends toward a kind of conservative inertia, tends to find itself more and more concerned with preservation of status rather than improving quality, often is hostile to “outsider” reformers, etc. etc.

I guess I wish that it was pointed out that this conventional concept of “journalism” as a profession (the one which appears to be under constant threat and attack from “new media”) is itself a rather new development. Too often I feel like discussions assume that the conventional concept of “journalism” has been around since the dawn of time, and therefore represents immutable normative values. Well … maybe not necessarily.

9 04 2009
tgross

Matt, you make an important point about institutional inertia and the static concept of “journalism.” Part of the reason for the current flailing is that early efforts to transform journalism have attempted to replicate old models with new technology.

You also are right about self-preservation leading to conservatism and identification with the establishment, which of course contradicts the important watchdog status that the founders recognized.

I agree that we must remain open to new concepts and expressions of journalism. Still, I think there are values that have and could still distinguish journalistic communication from the other information and noise in the system — objective research, willingness to alter assumptions, concern for fairness and inclusion of multiple points of view, differentiation of fact and opinion, etc.

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