By Andrew Gibson
I’ve heard the question too many times: “Why are you going into journalism?”
It usually comes from people not in the profession who hear about the decline of print newspapers or conclude that online news is an impossible business model. However, I read a post Sunday from a journalism insider. Dave Winer, who “pioneered the development of weblogs, syndication (RSS), podcasting, outlining, and web content management software,” according to his website Scripting News, posted this Friday:
“Journalism itself is becoming obsolete. I know the reporters don’t want to hear this, and they’re likely to blast me, even try to get me “fired” (it’s happened before) because at least for the next few months I hang my hat at a J-school. I happen to think journalism was a response to publishing being expensive. It cost a lot of money to push bits around the net before there was a net. They had to have huge capital-intensive printing plants, fleets of trucks and delivery boys with paper routes. Now we can hear directly from the sources and build our own news networks. It’s still early days for this, and it wasn’t that long ago that we depended on journalists for the news. But in a generation or two we won’t be employing people to gather news for us. It’ll work differently.”
I don’t think Winer wrote the post to upset anyone. He’s an “investor in web media companies,” according to his website, meaning he likely wants to see online journalism succeed. But I think it’s unfair, or at least too early, to say “journalism itself” is on the path to oblivion. There’s no easy way to define the practice, but I think of journalism as the process of verifying and disseminating information that makes people better able to make informed decisions. Newspapers are struggling, but I don’t see any widespread appetite for false information.