Sunday, August 23, 2009

What Will Tomorrow Bring: Death to Paper Dinosaurs!

On Chris Matthews this morning, a bevy of career journalists held a pity party. Boo hoo, the world is coming to an end! We're headed off a cliff!

Were they talking about the economy? Politics? Healthcare? Afghanistan? No, all that was over on Meet the Press.

These highbrow muckrakers were singing the dirge of the whole "all the news that's fit to print (and most of it that isn't)" industry. RIP Rocky Mountain News. RIP Seattle Post-Intelligencer. RIP New York Sun.

The quotes were just so ridiculous to me:

"The Internet doesn't have the fact checking."
"The Internet dumbs people down because it's so targeted." "You'll never get that out-of-the-corner-of-your-eye story about haircuts in Cambodia."
"We're losing the group sensibility that creates stories."
"We'll just never have those good ole days of newsroom collaboration. Blogging is very solitary."
"Everyone loses when a newspaper shuts down."
"There's just something special about freezing your butt off going outside in the morning to get the paper in your jammies."
Puh-leaze. I won't rebut line-by-line; I have enough windmills. I would write it off as a generational gap, but sadly, even some younger journalists bemoan the change.

I feel almost silly making the following self-evident statements. The Internet is the salvation of journalism. It puts news on steroids, going wider AND deeper. It enables new levels of cost efficiency and simultaneously new levels of democratization/decentralization. It's vastly lower bars to entry increase entrepreneurial participation. The spectrum of available viewpoints is broader, and can be communicated more effectively via richer multimedia. Rather than damaging credibility, democratization actually ensures that sharp minds and good ideas gain much better (and quicker) visibility. They are self-propelled by the level of interest they generate. No need to support the massive old "launch" infrastructure.

These journalists need not worry. Democratization does not erode their credibility ... as long as they continue to earn it ... and invest some new synapses in figuring out what's going on.

This guy, certainly gets it. He's an Ivy League math/econ major who calls print media "the dead tree and typewriter industry." Yet he's the Web Editor-in-Chief for The Daily Pennsylvanian and is avidly pursuing a career in journalism. Why would such a smartypants peg his future to such a dinosaur? He's not afraid. He understands the new business model. Why does it not surprise me he's a first generation American?

He's not alone. Fellow Ivy-leaguer Jason Kilar is closer in age to the talking heads on Chris Matthews, yet he's not scared either. He's dragging print and TV into the 21st century kicking and screaming ... and making big bucks at it.

Sam Altman, a poster child for a bright future, and Inc. Magazine's #4 "coolest entrepreneur", told Charlie Rose that when he wants to know the most important thing going on right now, he checks Twitter. "It always scoops traditional media."

Even Al-Jazeera isn't complaining ... and in this case, that's a good thing.

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