(Update: Following a good Twitter exchange with Jay, let me clarify: I certainly don't mean to be categorical myself in suggesting all these folks hold all the attitudes I find misguided. You'd profit from reading their thoughts in whole at their sites).
Both the business model and relationship with audience for traditional news companies are under huge stress. Both must change in dramatic ways, quickly.
But that doesn't mean everything we've learned about value-added information and public service journalism – fairness, ethics, professionalism – ought to be jettisoned for a new launch. As I have argued many times here, the better model is evolution, not revolution. (See Reign of Terror.)
In the spirit of helping further their very useful deliberations, I offer the following in a cautionary spirit:
In the play “A Man For All Seasons,” Robert Bolt’s drama of Sir Thomas More as he struggles in “the thicket of his imagination,” two scenes illuminate the dangers of wholesale rejection of ideology, convention and (in More's case) laws by passionate reformers. I suggest some parallel for those who would reject the conventions and established disciplines of journalism as they explore the beguiling new frontiers opened by global, read/write networks.
Towards the end of the first act, Sir Thomas More is with his wife Alice, his daughter Margaret, and his son-in-law Roper. They are clamoring for the arrest of an individual. Margaret tells her father that the man is bad. More replies, "There's no law against that." Roper tells him, "There's God's law." More answers, "Then let God arrest him."
More continues with a lesson to his son-in-law: "The law, Roper, the law. I know what's legal, not what's right, and I'll stick to what's legal." Roper accused him of setting man's law above God's. More answered, "No, far below. But let me draw your attention to a fact. I am not God. The currents and eddies of right and wrong I can't navigate. But in the thickets of the law, oh there, I'm a forester."
Later, Roper argues straightforwardly for the necessity of abandoning, even destroying established law in the service of his own perception of God’s higher ordinances:
More: Yes. What would you do? Cut a great road through the law to get after the Devil?(I don't have the play in front of me; I remembered these basic scenes and Googled for the quotes used above).
Roper: I'd cut down every law in England to do that!
More: Oh? And when the last law was down, and the Devil turned round on you - where would you hide, Roper, the laws all being flat? This country's planted thick with laws from coast to coast - man's laws, not God's - and if you cut them down - and you're just the man to do it - d'you really think you could stand upright in the winds that would blow then? Yes, I'd give the Devil benefit of law, for my own safety's sake.