While some on the 13-person panel could count themselves as
bloggers, only three could lay claim to it as their professional day
job (four, if you count Chicago Tribune columnist Eric Zorn who
probably blogs more than any other print columnist out there). So
rather than an exchange of ideas between the print and online worlds,
the Town Hall felt more like the funeral that Callaway suggested. From
the outset, it was clear that many were there to pat themselves on the
back for a job well done, rather than perform an autopsy. By my count,
there were 25 rounds of applause, most given for hard-to-argue bromides
like “Ethics are important” and “People should get paid for their
work.” Perhaps from the perspective of the veteran journalists, it
seemed like it was necessary to stipulate all that, even though no one
argued against it.
Of course, the good old days weren’t always good. Geoff Dougherty, founder of theChi-Town Daily News,
noted that his former employer the Miami Herald was laying people off
when it was making a 20% profit, in an effort to get to 25. Andrew
Huff, editor and publisher ofGapers Block,
a site for Chicago news and commentary, also said that the definition
of journalism has changed since Pulitzer and Hearst were duking it out
(not a set of standards anyone’s looking to re-adopt), and would
probably change again.
Perhaps what was most troubling is that some in the room didn’t
realize they share a common set of problems. For every complaint on the
print side, there was a corresponding grumble from the online side.
Sure, there are online sites that don’t properly attribute their
content, but as Brad Flora of theWindy Citizen
(a Digg!-like news aggregator of Chicago stories) pointed out, when the
Chicago Tribune re-published a video that first appeared on his site,
it failed to acknowledge the source. And as many were rending their
garments over how you can publish anything you want on that gosh darn
Internet, the online folks were classy enough not to mention Judith
a lack of operational definitions and universal adoption of standards.
Yes. Yes, the dictionary and the stylebook are totally the biggest problems.
For fuck’s sake:
terminology. Robert Feder, former media columnist with the Chicago
Sun-Times said “No one goes to Medill to be a platform manager. It
sounds like a CTA job.” Sure, it’s a good line. But would he say that
no one goes to Medill to be a managing editor?
Out of respect to the few useful Medill grads among the dozens of useless wankers that I know, I won’t say the first six things that came to mind. Or the seventh. Or the eighth. Let me just say this: Raise your hand if you’re doing what you went to journalism school to do right now. Yeah, you two guys in the back?
that went underrepresented on the panel. No one from the business side
was on the panel, and none of the CEOs and entrepreneurs who could fund
a new kind of news organization were in the offing. Iverson started to
discuss eight models for funding journalism, but only got as far as
five before Davis cut her off, saying “I think you’re overwhelming us…”
It’s become increasingly clear to me that a lot of people who’ve been in this business a long damn time don’t want to solve the problem, they just want to bitch. And that’s fine, we all need therapy, but I’m not interested in listening in on anybody else’s sessions.
Fact of the matter is, though, the current state of journalism is not only hurting good people who deserve better from their employers, it’s hurting the state of our democracy. We need answers, not pointless whining about standards and vague desire that somebody else get on top of this right away, Calloway. We need some realization that the structure of ownership and financials is to blame here, and that until we begin holding weekend journalism retreats about that, we’ll keep talking to ourselves in very erudite and impassioned fashion, and absolutely nothing will change.