Confidence Game
November 10, 2011 5:02 PM   Subscribe

The Future of journalsim.
posted by sf9719 (18 comments total) 11 users marked this as a favorite
posted by kittens for breakfast at 5:04 PM on November 10, 2011 [1 favorite]

“The story is the thing.”—S. S. McClure

...except you never really know what the 'story' is until it's over. Then, in our real-time world, it is no longer News. But it can still be a good story.

I will now return to reading the whole article - that just jumped out at me and DEMANDED an instant reply... on the internet
posted by oneswellfoop at 5:20 PM on November 10, 2011

It will be assembled, shared, and to an increasing degree, even gathered, by a sophisticated readership, one that is so active that the word “readership” will no longer apply.

I liked the scene in Page One, where David Carr holds up to the audience a piece of newspaper with stories physically cut out of the sheet, to show where "crowdsourced" news aggregators would be without the press.

Many of Shirky’s prescriptions for the economics of journalism are commonsensical and even wise... And who can argue with his call for constant experimentation? “If the old model is broken, what will work in its place?” he asks rhetorically. “The answer is: Nothing will work, but everything might. Now is the time for experiments, lots and lots of experiments. . . .”

“We need the new news environment to be chaotic” to facilitate experimentation, Shirky writes. In fact, though, only consultants “need” the news environment to be chaotic. The public, not so much.

Interestingly, Clay Shirky became fairly opposed to the experiment that was #amazonfail, a pretty dramatic demonstration of how a group of non-journalists can fail.

Peer-production thinkers, whatever else they have accomplished, have not been able to crack journalism’s law of physics: to do their jobs properly, reporters need time and to think.

Perhaps the Internet simply operates too quickly for journalism to happen in a way that serves the public good.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 5:27 PM on November 10, 2011 [3 favorites]

This piece is frustrating, because it gives all the signs of someone who is eager to engage with these critiques of the traditional journalistic model, but it completely fails to grapple with the most central one. It may well be true (I certainly think it is) that we are worse off as a society without a powerful and engaged fourth estate to reveal and combat the abuses of entrenched financial power and corrupt office holders. That does not mean that it will continue to exist, simply because it is desirable. Most of this piece seems to be bitterly contesting ground that Shirky et al willingly concede. Yes, it's a problem if there aren't news organizations to fund journalism on a scale of Ida Tarbell's. We are likely to see many of those organizations wither and die. So now what?
posted by Horace Rumpole at 6:07 PM on November 10, 2011 [4 favorites]

We disrupted your supply chain. Sorry about that.
posted by shoesfullofdust at 6:28 PM on November 10, 2011


That article could have used an editor, but the hoisting of Jeff Jarvis on his own petard was enjoyable.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 6:35 PM on November 10, 2011

Grar. The author fails to understand that what's destroying the press is the destruction of the press --- the replacement of that piece of technology with others. He seems to think that Shirky et al are ideologues trying to sway journalism toward a particular future through argument, as opposed to cultural critics trying to describe the reasons for its collapse. Journalism is changing because the tech is changing. Grarrrrrrrrr. This type of thinking drives me nuts and you see it everywhere but this is a particularly egregious example. We don't argue ourselves into a new society. Stuff changes, and the stuff we are able to do changes, and we argue ourselves into an accommodation with the change that has already occurred.
posted by Diablevert at 7:52 PM on November 10, 2011 [4 favorites]

Neal Stephenson probably hit on something in The Diamond Age*:

"He sat down at the kitchen table. Mrs Hull was already marmalading his crumpet. As she laid out plates and silver, Hackworth picked up a large sheet of blank paper. "The usual," he said, and then the paper was no longer blank; now it had the front page of the Times.

Hackworth got all the news that was appropriate to his station in life, plus a few optional services: the latest from his favorite cartoonists and columnists around the world; clippings on various peculiar crackpot subjects forwarded to him by his father, ..."

Although a work of fiction we seem to be on this slippery slope where journalism can be tailored to station or even to some other attribute like education: imagine multiple versions of the same story that algorithmically customize themselves to the reader. (Perhaps emphasizing the points they know the reader will like and ignoring the others, or re-arranging the article to best suit the individual consumption of the reader...)

*Amazon Affiliate
posted by sf9719 at 8:01 PM on November 10, 2011

Apparently the future of journalism is reading ads "while your story loads".
posted by murphy slaw at 8:04 PM on November 10, 2011 [1 favorite]

This article could really do with some summarizing by an intrepid mefite.

I was intrigued by this right at the end: "Rebuilding or shoring up institutions is going to take some new, new thinking, but it can be done." But I must have missed something because I didn't see this "new, new thinking" in the article itself. So, what's the way forward?
posted by vidur at 8:26 PM on November 10, 2011

The Future of journalsim.

Great typo.
posted by mrnutty at 8:30 PM on November 10, 2011 [4 favorites]

Great article thanks for posting. I don't see any solutions either, but this frames the real problems with the current rosy outlook folks. 'it'll all work out! Citizen journalists! Networking! Or something?' or nothing.
posted by Potomac Avenue at 10:48 PM on November 10, 2011 [1 favorite]

But wherever Jarvis lives, unless it is in Westminster, London, chances are the BBC doesn’t cover it.

List of BBC foreign correspondents

You know, abroad. That place.
posted by Devonian at 12:00 AM on November 11, 2011 [2 favorites]

If you're interested in reading Jeff Jarvis demolitions (and who isn't?), Steven Poole links to a peach of one here.

The hollow clutching of Jarvis's "response" (also linked there) expose exactly how lost he is.
(The "yay you! nailed it!" comments following also illuminate the level of his followers, too)

You know, abroad. That place.
Yeah, but the BBC covers events of national interest, outside the UK. It most definitely isn't covering items of purely local concern, like the majority of council meetings etc. News is local; that's one of the big problems, business-model-wise.
posted by fightorflight at 1:56 AM on November 11, 2011 [1 favorite]

[*Amazon Affiliate

For the record, please do not include your own affiliate codes here. Feel free to email if you have questions.]

posted by jessamyn at 6:16 AM on November 11, 2011

McClure’s had planned a three-part series, but, as copies flew off the newsstands, it soon became seven parts, then twelve, then a national sensation. New installments became news events in themselves, covered by other papers, including the fledgling Wall Street Journal. “The History of the Standard Oil Company” ended up as a nineteen-part series, quickly turned into a two-volume book.

Who in the world would endure a nineteen-part serialization these days? Not even Nancy Grace could dance her way into success with something like this, not even with OJ and Kim Kardashian AND Casey Anthony helping her over the hard parts.
posted by halfbuckaroo at 10:14 AM on November 11, 2011

Yeah, but the BBC covers events of national interest, outside the UK. It most definitely isn't covering items of purely local concern, like the majority of council meetings etc. News is local; that's one of the big problems, business-model-wise.

The BBC does also run 50 odd "local" radio stations which each have their local news broadcasts. Even though these often aren't brilliant, they do a better job of providing local news coverage than almost any other organisation/company.
posted by dng at 7:32 PM on November 11, 2011 [1 favorite]

Like a Yeats of the newspaper world, Starkman yearns for the restoration of a culture considerably purer than the actual newspaper business has ever been. Reading Confidence Game, you’d never know that most papers are not like the NY Times, that most of what appears in their pages is syndicated, that sports is often better represented on the masthead than hard news. You’d never know that more American papers printed today will include a horoscope than international news. You’d never know that newspapers are institutions where grown men and women are assigned to write stories about dogs catching frisbees.

Clay Shirky responds.
posted by Horace Rumpole at 6:32 AM on December 5, 2011

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