All Shirky, all the time
OK, I can't help it if I keep pointing out stuff by Clay Shirky. He keeps explaining, as clearly as anyone, what is happening in journalism.
His latest on the Cato Web site, has these key points (I also recommend checking back to see the responses scheduled later this month from Phil Meyer, Paul Starr and Steve Yelvington). The key points:
- Journalism isn’t just about uncovering facts and framing stories; it’s also about assembling a public to read and react to those stories. A public is not merely an audience.
- Journalism written for that fraction of the population that follows the news closely has always been subsidized. For the last century, newspaper journalism had direct subsidy from advertisement and cross-subsidy from sports fans and coupon clippers who never really cared about the city council or the coup in Madagascar. The packages containing news have been so bundled and cross-funded that we’ve never really known precisely the size of the audience for actual civic-minded reporting, or how much direct fees from that audience would amount to.
- This leads to the second change in subsidy: high leverage in having a small number of professionals vet, edit, and shape that raw material.
- The ability to get out of the “phone call” model of reporting — one paid journalist talking to one source at a time — and to instead bring in everything the internet has taught us about automation, syndication, parallel effort, and decentralization will increasingly characterize successful new models of journalism.