Convention keynote speaker Jeff Jarvis, Buzzmachine.com blogger, media columnist for The Guardian and author of "What Would Google Do" took some time out of his Saturday to talk to SAJAforum about the future of journalism and the evolution of the news business.
What is the role of professional news organizations of the future?
Collaboration and support—helping people out. They still need to report, especially things others don’t like such as state house coverage. But in terms of how they collaborate with larger networks, they can aggregate, curate (find the best), link, sell ads financially, train people and provide all kinds of value.
Yes. The old assumptions are no longer
valid - that it is not news until we tell the world. We can’t assume that news is only news when it comes from a
newsroom, we should see it as an opportunity.
How do you ensure that all sections of society are equally represented?
The issue of coverage is important, and the danger is we are
at risk at redlining (people in
poorer towns won’t get coverage).
Potentially I see the same thing enforced in hyper local coverage
(because of the digital divide).
What do you think of public funding for journalism?
That makes me allergic as an American. Certainly the BBC works, but I think it is dangerous to have the government involved in speech. And I don’t think its necessary, especially now when everyone is being the press. The BBC has two channels - out of the millions of people out there, whom do we support? And who decides?
In America, government supported media is small. We have more of a traditional reflex of supporting news through foundation and I think that’s healthy. Whereas in Europe, when you get people to contribute through foundations, they don’t have the same reflex because the government takes care funding organizations. So I think in a weird way we are in a better position.
Spot.Us has a good platform so independents can support journalism. Is it successful? It’s too new to tell.
Is there a role for the foreign correspondent?
Yes, but doesn’t always have to happen in the country. You understand what the issues are, you know where to look, and who to call. An example is the Global Voices venture. At Harvard, volunteers adopt a country and be a bridge blogger. So adopt a country, add value (reporting), add perspective, ask questions an American will ask, but with a wealth of information.
Should young journalists continue enrolling in journalism school?
You are the guys who are going to reinvent journalism and save it.
Students are not resistant to change. You don’t have to browbeat them into blogging. They bring in the culture. They have an experience with an understanding of the media that older journalists just don’t have.
The reason I chose to come teach in journalism is because it allowed me to do interesting stuff. But so much change is needed, it will happen from this wellspring. I chose to teach to see that happen.
Will journalism make money?
That, I don’t know.
I believe that most journalism will be for profit, and it will operate at scale. There are areas that will be hard to support, so the question is whether there will be enough charitable support.
How does journalism
of the future work?
Journalists can’t afford to do what everybody else is doing anymore—send someone to cover the same convention that many others are covering. Commodity journalism is not useful and no one can afford it. There needs to be more quality, so add value to what exists. It is a very complementary role.
So, become more specialized, add to the existing world, and be generous to it, link out to it. And be open, that’s how you get talked about.
-- By Gayathri Vaidyanathan, recent graduate of Columbia University.
Photo by Preston Merchant