One of the most important questions news organizations and journalists need to decide now and in the years ahead is: What should we stop doing?
This was the question that lingered with me most after reading Post-Industrial Journalism, the outstanding report from the Tow Center for Digital Journalism by C.W. Anderson, Emily Bell and Clay Shirky.
When the report came out, my first reaction was to drop everything, read it right away and comment in detail to its many points. But I found I couldn’t do that. The report came out just as I was trying to get back up to speed after an extended distraction from work as I helped my brother’s family deal with the death of my nephew Brandon. Work tasks beckoned urgently, so I couldn’t drop everything again. And when I found some time to read PIJ, I found my concentration weak, partly due to fatigue, partly because the next work task was always beckoning.
Meanwhile other people weighed in with more insightful things than I had to say yet (but often along the same lines, which would have made my points redundant): Josh Benton of the Nieman Lab, Jeff Sonderman of Poynter and Mathew Ingram of GigaOm.
Besides, what I wanted to say on about every page was, “Right on!” It’s much easier (and feels more urgent) to blog about something you disagree with (see my posts about recent CJR posts by Dean Starkman and Ryan Chittum or my response to an earlier Columbia report by Len Downie and Michael Schudson, calling for government subsidies for journalism). But I agreed a lot with PIJ. (I did blog about two disagreements with a particular passage, about whether journalism is in decline and whether smaller communities will feel this decline more acutely).
Post-Industrial Journalism makes a lot of important points journalists and news organizations should consider — about the importance of data literacy in journalism, about the importance of solving mysteries (rather than just learning secrets), about the importance of journalists developing computer coding skills, about the importance of sharing lessons from startup news organizations, about shifting our work away from finished news products and toward the continuous flow of a news stream, about developing more flexible “hackable” content management systems. I encourage reading the whole report if you haven’t yet. Journalists should especially read the section targeted at individual journalists.
When I finally finished the report on my fourth or fifth or sixth sitting, one point stuck out, and it wasn’t something they said, but my reaction to what they said: What should we stop doing? (more…)