Thursday, March 26, 2009

Into the hemisphere of the unknown

Matt Thompson is onto something important.

His recent explorations into the notion of context as a key to journalism keep getting sharper and deeper. Looking at what happens when "news" moves beyond facts and events, he's charting a future territory for public service journalism with the promise of reasserting the role of skilled professionals.

You ought to be reading his field notes at Newsless.

Here is a taste from the latest post:

Journalism has long been described as a sort of cartography. But in news, local news especially, we almost never actually draw a map. Instead, we furnish a daily series of notable waypoints: at this intersection, you’ll find company layoffs; go down that road a stretch and you’ll bump into some public corruption ...

... Part of my goal is to help chart in ever-greater detail the former terrain – capturing the accumulated wisdom of our editors and reporters, our mayor and councilpersons, our developers, our activists, our supermarket clerks, our postal workers, our opera singers. And what I hope becomes the goal of my profession is to dispatch that body of explorers into the hemisphere of the unknown, toward the infinite task of claiming land from the wilderness

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Grand theft

Maybe the best lesson I learned during the long newspaper war in Anchorage was this: if you come across a good idea elsewhere, consider stealing it. If the good idea shows up in the competition, steal it immediately.

I thought of this today when reading about Martin Brodeur, perhaps the best goalie of the modern era. Good advice:

Brodeur, 36, can eclipse Patrick Roy’s league record for career victories Tuesday at Prudential Center against Chicago, but he is never satisfied by the way he plays. He says he has a hybrid style that is still evolving, with techniques picked up from other goalies.

“Anything I think will be good for my game, I’ll steal from them,” Brodeur said. “It’s fair game.”

Sunday, March 15, 2009

'Thinking the unthinkable'

I've been on the road for a while and I'm late pointing to this important piece by Clay Shirky. If you care at all about journalism or newspapers, you need to read it.

Here are a few key points:

With the old economics destroyed, organizational forms perfected for industrial production have to be replaced with structures optimized for digital data. It makes increasingly less sense even to talk about a publishing industry, because the core problem publishing solves — the incredible difficulty, complexity, and expense of making something available to the public — has stopped being a problem...

... The newspaper people often note that newspapers benefit society as a whole. This is true, but irrelevant to the problem at hand; “You’re gonna miss us when we’re gone!” has never been much of a business model...

... Any experiment ... designed to provide new models for journalism is going to be an improvement over hiding from [reality], especially in a year when, for many papers, the unthinkable future is already in the past.