‘Society doesn’t need newspapers. What we need is journalism.’
That quote was pulled from an incredible essay called Newspapers and Thinking the Unthinkable, about the future of newspapers. You should most definitely read Clay Shirky’s entire essay, but here is another brilliant point:
“The newspaper people often note that newspapers benefit society as a whole. This is true, but irrelevant to the problem at hand; “You’re gonna miss us when we’re gone!” has never been much of a business model. So who covers all that news if some significant fraction of the currently employed newspaper people lose their jobs?
I don’t know. Nobody knows.”
Clay Shirky gets it. When will newspaper owners (*cough* Gannett *cough*) realize that the old models won’t work no matter how much “innovation” they throw at them. For newspapers — true, print newspapers, not online-only ones a la the Seattle Post-Intelligencer — to survive, they need new models. That means expiramentation and likely many failures. They won’t like that reality, but they should look at it this way: The current path they are on is one of eventual total failure. Only new models will save them.
I say all of this because I love newspapers. I grew up with them. I wanted to be a journalist from a young age and graduated college with a journalism degree. I spent several years working with some of the most talented and most dedicated people I have ever met. I want newspapers to survive, but I fear for their future — and for the future of all of my journalist friends.