Responding to the "Confidence Game"

If you care about the "future of news" debate, take a few minutes to read Clay Shirky's response to Dean Starkman's essay in the Columbia Journalism Review, which was titled "Confidence Game."

What strikes me most about the reactionary responses of the people Jay Rosen calls "the printies" is how often the acts of observation and analysis are identified and attacked as advocacy.

To observe that the old newspaper model is broken, or that journalism is becoming decentralized, or that power is shifting from "the people formerly known as producers" to "the people formerly known as consumers," is taken to mean an argument that the world should change that way.

Maybe it should, maybe it shouldn't. What's important is that it is changing that way and a rational assessment of that truth is in order.

Shirky lists me among the "unmentioned fellow travelers" in the FON pack, which I regard as an honor. But I have never wanted to destroy the past. I actually like old things and appreciate preservation.

I grew up around newsrooms and Speed Graphic cameras and Linotype machines and newspapers that were powerful, respected, and above all, profitable.

But we can't live there any more. The monopoly era of factory-produced, one-way, institutional journalism has ended. Products and titles and companies may survive, but they will never again be what they were, any more than I will ever again be a long-haired twentysomething riding a motorcycle.

It is a new world whether we want one or not.