While I am critical of the Columbia University report, The Reconstruction of American Journalism, I am pleased that it has stirred debate about the future of journalism. Here are the most interesting takes I have seen on the report by Columbia journalism professor Michael Schudson and former Washington Post executive editor Leonard Downie Jr:
Tom Grubisch ripped into Downie and Schudson in OJR: The Online Journalism Review, calling it the kind of “shallow analysis that typically informs newspaper editorials on big issues.” Be sure to read Robert Niles’ comment. He sees Downie and Schudson as speaking for news industry leaders who “chose to ignore, marginalize or even demonize voices who argued that the news industry must change its procedures, in both editorial and business operations, to compete online.” Now, Niles says, “top news company managers are working their way through the stages of grief.” The Downie/Schudson report, Niles said, represents the stages of anger and bargaining.
Dan Gillmor, a colleague of Downie’s at Arizona State University, warned: “Journalists get government help at some peril.”
Jeff Jarvis said Downie and Schudson reached faulty conclusions by starting with a mistaken “dire assumption that journalism is dying with newspapers.”
C.W. Anderson, who helped in the research, wrote about the report for the Nieman Journalism Lab.
Steve Outing, speculated that the primary audience for Downie and Schudson might well be foundations and philanthropists.
Michael Rosenblum summarized the report as terrible, saying Downie and Schudson had proposed “a tin cup” for an industry that “has to rethink what it is and what it teaches.”
Alan Mutter wrote that the solutions in the report “range from curiously impractical to startlingly unoriginal.”
Michele McLellan said the proposal for federal funding “sends us down a garden path of wishful thinking when we need to hit the highway of innovating business models.”
Ian Hill blogged that media operations would take huge amounts of government money and philanthropy, far more than would be realistic to expect. A second critical post, Hill noted that we need to take into account the needs of the market as we seek solutions. In a separate post, Hill said Downie and Schudson were right in saying there is no easy answer and that we need to market the news. He also responded to my Schudson’s and my remarks about social media (I’m not the only one writing a lot on this topic).
Rick Edmonds summarized the report for Poynter Online, not commenting at length but noting that government funding “may prove a tough sell politically or a flawed concept.”
Poynter’s Bill Mitchell looked at the reaction to the Downie/Schudson report (linking to me and others that I also link to here).
Joel Kramer, CEO of MinnPost, acknowledged some of the problems in federal funding of accountability journalism and proposed a way to insulate the journalism from political pressure.
Columbia Journalism Review compiled responses from Jan Schaffer (“mile-wide, inch-deep reportage”), Martin Langeveld (suggesting a public-service Report for America project) and others. Schudson responded to them in a single post.
Steve Yelvington called the report a good read for college journalism students, “But as a vision, well, don’t get your hopes up.”
Jim Barnett noted that as more interest groups undertake journalism, defining who would receive federal subsidies could become problematic.
If you’re reading this, you probably already know that I have written about this issue myself (and posted Schudson’s responses to me):
I’m sure I’m missing some. Please add them in the comments.