News Leadership 3.0

June 01, 2009

Can journalism adapt?

Columbia dean suggests journalism is falling short in making (and living) the case that it’s indispensable

Journalists are frustrated and angry at the seeming unconcern of the general public as the news industry melts down. That’s understandable. But as someone who has spent a lot of time talking to citizens about journalism, I’ve come to understand the gap: What journalists think they are providing is not necessarily visible (or even present) in the eyes of the public.

Nicholas Lehman captures this idea more eloquently in a speech to Columbia Journalism School grads (posted by Clay Shirky):

“... we have been in the habit of assuming that whatever appears in a newspaper or a magazine or on a broadcast or a news organization’s Web site is available there uniquely, and represents a distinctive and irreplaceable contribution to public life. I spent a lot of my time these days talking to non-journalists about journalism, and I can tell you that we all have to learn to make a more sophisticated argument for ourselves.

“Much of the public that we believe we are serving needs to be persuaded that it cannot find out what’s going on in the world simply by looking at non-journalistic Web sites and blogs—that there is a special value to the work that news organizations do. Conversely, we need to be more precise in our thinking about exactly how we are serving that oft-mentioned cause, the public’s right to know, at a time when, thanks to the Internet, the public has more free unmediated access to information than at any time in the history of the world. It may be that the particulars of how we execute our general mission will have to change quite a lot for us to be able to make the strongest possible case for the value of our profession. We have to be willing to explore all that undefensively, with energy and enthusiasm.

(Emphasis added.)


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Exploring innovation, transformation and leadership in a new ecosystem of news, by journalist and change advocate Michele McLellan.

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