I’m spending a day this week in a journalism conference in Grafton, Vermont, and it will come as no surprise to many In Boxers that it’s a complicated and often grim conversation.
On the one hand, journalists continue to champion really important civic ideals, including open government, public disclosure and transparency, and accountability.
The folks in this room – from public media, newspapers, TV and on-line publications – are (like me) true believers. They think a functioning democracy needs a free, fair and robust press. The two go hand in hand.
Unfortunately, we are a full generation into the digital revolution and the future of journalism remains, in significant measure, a troubling mystery. Many newspapers are closing, or cutting staff sharply. TV news rooms are struggling.
As more and more people shift to getting their news from things like smartphones and i-pads, no one is quite sure how to ask them to pay for it.
The good news is that there is an amazing creative ferment, here at NCPR and across the “news business.” People are experimenting, trying new things, collaborating, trying to reinvent themselves.
I don’t think it pays to be pollyanaish. In this transition, some cool things have been and are being lost. There will likely be more good and important stories missed or treated superficially as the number of reporters and editors declines.
We will, as journalists, have fewer resources to challenge authorities of all kinds, demanding the kind of information that the public needs and deserves to have.
But I think it’s very likely that some cool, responsive, and creative new models for journalism will emerge. Our dear hope is that NCPR will be one of those innovators, finding better ways to help you stay informed.
Of course, that future hinges on a lot of you continuing to believe that we’re worth supporting, and that means people continuing to call us (or pledge on-line) to make donations.
So here’s my question to you: Of all the sources of news that you use, how many do you support, through subscription or membership or other form of quid pro quo?
And how worried are you that your local journalism watchdog — newspaper, commercial radio station, TV station — won’t survive the digital age?