Monday, March 16, 2009

Newspapers and the Unthinkable

Monday, March 16, 2009

Check out a fascinating piece by Clay Shirky (a media consultant and adjunct professor at NYU's Interactive Telecommunications Program) on newspapers and the Internet at

Coming out a week after the infamous "10 Major Papers That May Fold or Go Digital Next" piece on Wall St. 24/7, this thoughtful item harkens back to the mid-‘90s warnings of New Directions for News head Jean Gaddy Wilson and provides some much-needed context on what’s happened since. It manages to connect the enormous societal transformation that took place with the advent of printing (“we’re collectively living through 1500”) to the approaches that newspapers took to the Internet throughout the 1990s (“they were, at base, all the same plan: ‘Here’s how we’re going to preserve the old forms of organization in a world of cheap perfect copies!’”). It concludes:

“For the next few decades, journalism will be made up of overlapping special cases. Many of these models will rely on amateurs as researchers and writers. Many of these models will rely on sponsorship or grants or endowments instead of revenues. Many of these models will rely on excitable 14 year olds distributing the results. Many of these models will fail. No one experiment is going to replace what we are now losing with the demise of news on paper, but over time, the collection of new experiments that do work might give us the journalism we need.”

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