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[newmedia] Journalism panel

Dan Gillmor is not as pessimistic as many others about the future of journalism. We’re in a fertile period of innovation. But we need better audiences. Passive consumers need to be active readers, and this ought to be part of school curricula, starting in pre-school.

Jim VandeHri from Politico agrees with Dan that we’re going to end up with more and better journalism, although he has no idea what it’s going to look like and he thinks that newspapers are in much worse shape than most acknowledge.

Nick Wrenn from CNN says they use social media like Twitter both to engage the audience and as an early warning system.

David Kirkpatrick of Fortune (who’s writing a book about Facebook) is not so sure it’s a great time to go into journalism because the business model isn’t there. “I’m happy I’m getting out of it.” Yet the “number of kids who want to be journalists is astonishingly high.” He makes a few points. First, if Google gets better at its search, its ads become less relevant and valuable, and he thinks Bing is intended to force Google to get better at searching for that reason. Second, the number of minutes spent on Facebook has gone up hugely; it is uniquely influential as a media platform, both as a place where people create content and distribute others’ content.

Dan agrees that the business models aren’t there, but he’s jealous of his students because they get to invent their jobs and invent what journalism will be. Jim thinks that over time, there will be more organizations (like Politico) that can pay journalists. There will be lots of journalism, but just not dominated by the big papers and broadcasters. It’ll be non-profits, startups, etc. Politico makes money out of ads. Over the next six months, Politico will experiment with charging for some specialized content.

Q: Is it time to put the broadsheet out of its misery?
A: Dan: Print won’t shut down quickly because there’s still a whole lot of cash flow. And if you reset the debt via bankruptcies, there’s still profit to be had.
A: CNN: Newsrooms have to figure out how to deal with the changes. It’s amazing that newspapers still report on yesterday’s news.

Q: Who’s going to pay to gather dull but important information at the local level?
A: Dan: The newspapers aren’t gathering it now. No one is. We are going to lose eat-your-spinach journalism. Back when newspapers sent journalists to the boring meetings, the journalists were deterrents to bad behavior. Maybe we should hire circuit forensic accountants to work with journalists…
A: David: But now every member of the school board can be a broadcaster. So, the role of the community newspaper can be different. I am incredibly optimistic about the future of society in terms of info being distributed. But I’m not optimistic about the future of journalism.

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