The recent panic over the demise of newspapers has led to a predictable flurry of omigod, now-what speculation. We’re being treated to one hype-filled piece after another about this or that startup or project that has the potential to save, revolutionize or do something really, really special to move us into the future of news and information.
Let’s take a deep breath, calm down and understand what’s going on here. There’s no way of knowing which of these worthy enterprises, products and projects — and hundreds or thousands more like them that already exist or will soon — will be around in a decade. The fact of their existence is what’s exciting, not their individual prospects.
We’ve become accustomed to a media world dominated by monopolies and oligopolies. So we — and especially the paid journalists who remain in the craft — tend to imagine that just a few big institutions will rise from the sad rubble of the journalism business.
That’s not where it’s going, at least not anytime soon. We’re heading into an incredibly messy but also wonderful period of innovation and experimentation that combines technology and people and pushes great and outlandish ideas into the real world. The result will a huge number of failures but also a large number of successes.
This is why I’ve grown more and more certain that we will not lack for a supply of quality news and information. This comes with two caveats. First, we need a solid supply of people who are willing to take some responsibility for getting quality news and information. Second, we can’t let government and/or big media take away the freedoms we now have to experiment.
Meanwhile, the next time you see or hear a story about this or that magic wand that someone is waving to save journalism, appreciate the entrepreneurial or technical or journalistic imagination that its founders have shown. But consider it just one small step along a long, long road to our future.
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