Clay Shirky has produced another piece of what should be required reading for journalists, this time arguing the benefits of different news organizations trying many different things to either raise new revenue or reduce the cost of reporting. Much of the argument repeats the plain-English explanation of the economic underpinnings of the news industry and why those underpinnings no longer make the sense they did decades ago, but it bears repeating because of the many who still focus only on what the newsroom has lost and on so-called buzzwords that don’t fit traditional notions of journalism. Shirky rounds it up aptly:
“If we adopt the radical view that what seems to be happening is actually happening, then a crisis in reporting isn’t something that might take place in the future. A 30% reduction in newsroom staff, with more to come, means this is the crisis, right now. Any way of creating news that gets cost below income, however odd, is a good way, and any way that doesn’t, however hallowed, is bad.
“Having one kind of institution do most of the reporting for most communities in the US seemed like a great idea right up until it seemed like a single point of failure. As that failure spreads, the news ecosystem isn’t just getting more chaotic, we need it to be more chaotic, because we need multiple competing approaches. It isn’t newspapers we should be worrying about, but news, and there are many more ways of getting and reporting the news that we haven’t tried than that we have.”
7/11/2011 UPDATE: The Economist has an interesting series of stories on the evolution of the news industry. Particularly interesting is the installment Coming Full Circle, which argues that the Internet, “by undermining the mass media’s business models, that technology is in many ways returning the industry to the more vibrant, freewheeling and discursive ways of the pre-industrial era.”