Posted on October 3, 2008
Save journalism, save the world
Yesterday I finished reading this book: SuperMedia: Saving Journalism So It Can Save the World. Consider this a hearty recommendation.
Taking an idea first expounded by Jeff Jarvis, British broadcast journalist Charlie Beckett stays on point in 170 pages of well-reasoned argument about exactly how journalism has already changed — and how today’s journalists and journalism educators need to understand that so they can go forward, and not sit inert as their world collapses on their heads.
This is NOT a book about multimedia and gee-whiz technology tools. I think the phrases “backpack journalism” and “mojo” never appear herein.
In a straightforward tone, Beckett explains that by putting the means of both content production and distribution into the hands of — well, almost anyone, the Internet has made it impossible for journalism to continue in the way it has operated since the steam-driven printing press (c. 1810) first made a mass audience possible. (Not that Beckett wastes any words on telling you the history you already know — that’s just me showing off.) This is already reality, today, and that’s where Beckett focuses: today.
So how do we save journalism? Well, for better or worse, Beckett is not providing a business model either. But he takes a positive, practical position toward the audience (or those formerly known as such) and how the key to continuing journalism — to maintaining a democratic republic, no less — is learning how to work with and for the audience. How to take their contributions and incorporate them into reporting. How to use them as fact checkers and idea generators. How to cope with cut-to-the-bone newsroom staffing by inviting the community to help you (journalists) do what’s right, do what must be done to ensure that the public has the information it needs.
It’s a positive book with clear, real-world examples from real journalism. It does not waste words and it doesn’t lose itself in philosophical boilerplate.
I think all journalists and journalism educators should read this book.
(You can read the introduction and the first two chapters online, here.)