A crisis is a terrible thing to waste

I'm quoting economist Paul Romer at the top of my presentation Monday to the World Editors Forum in Moscow. Romer has said many smart things, but one of my favorites is this: "A crisis is a terrible thing to waste."

There is a sense of crisis in the newspaper industry. FTM quotes Merrill Lynch analyst Lauren Rich Fine: "We are now concluding that the fundamental outlook for newspapers is even more challenging than we had previously thought; in essence profits generated from an almost monopolistic position within classifieds is being eliminated as the core listings business (for newspapers) could become a loss leader for other online classified models. ... it is a stinker of an industry."

One of my hobbies is visiting military museums when I travel. War is crisis, and the technological progress you can see in military hardware over the course of World War I and II is stunning. Crisis forces reluctant institutions to change.

We need this crisis, and now that we have it, it's our responsibility to find constructive ways to respond. I don't have all the answers, but I believe I have a line on some things we should all be doing.

I'll be talking in Moscow about building and facilitating online community. I'm setting aside the term "citizen journalism," which is a lightning rod for pointless and destructive debate. Instead, I want to talk about social capital, civic engagement, connections, empowerment and --surprise -- improving print journalism. I'll talk about how new and old media can be friends, how the "World Wide" Web can be hyperlocal, and how citizens and pro journalists can help one another.

I may post a blog item or two during the week ... or not. My boat-anchor laptop is not coming along. I prefer to travel light. I'll be in Moscow Saturday-Thursday, then in St. Petersburg Friday-Saturday.


It's heartening to see the term "citizen" lapse from the discussion.

The word always implies, to me, a relationship to some authority. Authority, as you recognize, is not the relationship that's desired. To wit: you never see the citizens talking about "citizen journalism."