I’m too angry to wait and edit this later.

March 24, 2008

This is not the first time I’ve seen a journalist throw up his hands and abandon the industry that pays his kids’ college tuition.

For years now I’ve been listening to assholes like Carr furrow their brows and worry about an industry collapse that does not affect them nearly as much as it does the next generation of journalists and writers. It’s been a difficult time to find hope for those young people who are serious about making a life out of the craft and value of journalism. We’ve heard of newspapers gouged by budget cuts, gobbled by media conglomerates, banished to the fringes of American media by the Internet. All of these things are hard to watch as we attempt to make our way into the industry, but the most galling of all developments in the recent media climate is the betrayal of journalism by journalists. Journalists like Carr and so many others tell us, the possible journalists of tomorrow, what a tragedy it is that things are going the way they are, how sad it is to see once-strong papers dragged down by corporate control and the bottom line, how hopeless the future is for those who seek to work in the news business. Not a one seems inclined to defend the viability and necessity of their own craft.

What should be done, they ask, implicitly or explicitly, in editorials and Poynter articles and on most pages of E & P. The question is posed in sad, nostalgic obituaries posing as reports from the front lines: Whither print journalism? Or answers are offered in preemptive surrender: We are a dying industry. There are no reinforcements. The Web and profit motive have taken over. Fend for yourselves. Last month I read a blog post by an employed reporter who said he was excited to watch season five of “The Wire” because he was interested in the fate of journalism. Apparently, a television show could tell him more about his own workplace and the things going wrong with it than his own eyes and his pride in the work.

Has anyone stopped to think about the people giving us these messages? These are paid journalists with salaries and bylines you and I are only beginning to dream of. These are people whose names appear every day next to articles they’ve written. These are people with a serious media outlet. You and I don’t have that. We want it. Why aren’t they doing anything with it? Why aren’t they resisting the Internet? Why do they point to blogs and new media as a new path for civic journalism while disregarding their own responsibility and the positions they hold in outlets that were supposed to be doing that job before Web 2.0 ever came along? Why aren’t they standing up for the idea that there is no substitute for reading a daily paper, in print? Why don’t they care about their own voice? Why are they afraid to say that they provide a service no one else can? Fuck the excuses, fuck business, fuck owners, editors, ad revenue– why haven’t any journalists stood up for journalism in a meaningful way? Shit, even Poyner documents the collapse like they were watching the Hindenburg. This is their future— and ours, unfortunately –and no one in the industry seems to care enough to take action.

It’s a surrender unmatched in American history. At no time has an industry with a unique and vital product that has not been outstripped by the progress of technology given in so cravenly and apathetically to external competition. Again: there is no substitute for the daily newspaper. Democratic government depends on it, on its depth, its readers, on its slow, deliberative medium. What we’re seeing today in daily journalism and the people who supposedly care about it is tantamount to a quarterback taking a knee when he’s down by a field goal. They’re so eager to get off the field they can’t even play the game they’re about to lose.

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