‘Journalism Oracle’? What Was I Thinking?

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March 14, 2014 by newsgetting

I realize now that I may have overpromised. When asked recently to suggest a topic for a speech I will give on Friday to several hundred college journalists at their annual convention, I went with something snappy sounding. My talk is called “Journalism 2020: A Forecast and Guide to the Years Ahead for Young Journalists.”
The problem with that, of course, is that no one really knows what journalism will look like in 2020. The pace of change is fast, and it’s accelerating.
And many people are in a better position to look ahead than I am.However, the speech is looming – in fact, I’m looking forward to it. So I’ve been compiling some of the most interesting reading I can find on the subject, hoping to draw on the thoughts of true experts.
Because readers of this blog also tend to be interested in journalism issues and trends, I thought I’d share links to them here. Some are brand new. One, by contrast, is nearly as old as the pyramids – that is, it dates all the way back to 2009, but holds up quite well anyway.

1. The legendary tech entrepreneur Marc Andreessen, in a new blog post, writes: “I am more bullish about the future of the news industry over the next 20 years than almost anyone I know. You are going to see it grow 10X to 100X from where it is today.” But, he says, the business may be – and should be – almost unrecognizable to old-schoolers when it gets there. His sweeping article covers a lot of ground.

2. Stephanie Yang, a Northwestern University journalist, analyzes the strengths of media up-and-comers. She sees an era in which entrepreneurship may be the most important quality: “The most influential young media moguls aren’t the ones who can write, or produce, or tweet the best,” she says. “They are the ones who create new solutions and ideas to keep up with changing technology, or to fit nontraditional news demands.”

3. David Carr, the New York Times media columnist, in writing about moves by journalists like Ezra Klein, who recently left The Washington Post to go to Vox Media, sees the strength of such new media ventures. “More and more, it’s becoming apparent that digital publishing is its own thing, not an additional platform for established news companies.” Business Insider, for example, “sits at the sweet spot of digital content: high traffic, low cost, with a combination of sassy voices and viral content.”

4. Elizabeth Green, who founded Chalkbeat, a website devoted to deep coverage of education, sees the continued rise of single-subject journalism efforts. In the Nieman Journalism Lab’s annual forecast for the year ahead, she wrote: “More niche nonprofit news organizations will be unmistakably good for democracy. The more knowledgeable our news sources, the more knowledgeable we can be as citizens and policymakers Even better, subject matter expertise also seems to have a real shot at becoming self-sustaining.”

5. Clay Shirky, a New York University professor and author, still looks prescient five years after his blog post, “Newspapers and Thinking the Unthinkable” appeared. In addition to my favorite line (“ ‘You’re gonna miss us when we’re gone’ has never been much of a business model”), he compares what’s happening in journalism now to the revolutionary changes that followed the invention of the printing press. He wrote: “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.”

And that monumental uncertainty still holds sway in 2014 – which is just one more indication that I may have overpromised.
With that, I’m going to step (mostly) off the grid for a few days. See you next week.

By Margaret Sullivan (The New York Times)

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