What exactly is quality journalism? Well, the answer changes with the times. While some best practices in journalism will always remain true, others evolve with the world around it.
After posting my thoughts on Chris Hughes and The New Republic the other day, I came across this post by Jay Rosen, proprietor of the blog PressThink and a journalism professor at NYU, that considers the virtues of the old-media mindset alongside its shortcomings. Rosen’s post strikes me as an elegant formulation of the perspective one hopes Hughes might bring to TNR. Check it out—it’s a bracing summary of how publishers can innovate while remaining true to the values that make their industry vital to democracy. It’s frank about the industry’s failings but also hopeful, not least because it recognizes the virtues of old and new simultaneously, without trying to slot them into a neat pro-and-con relationship with one another. Here’s an excerpt:
Listening to demand is smart journalism, so is giving people what they have no way to demand because they don’t know about it yet. If you are good at one, the other goes better. “Do what you do best and link to the rest” isn’t a slogan, it’s your only hope for comprehensive coverage. Figuring out how to make things happen at lower cost is intrinsic to quality journalism today. Pack journalism and duplicative coverage mock your claims of crisis. In the aggregate, the users know more than you do about most things. They are in many more places than you can be. They also help distribute your stuff. Therefore talking with them is basic to your job. Google isn’t the source of your troubles; it sends you traffic. Digitally, the original sin wasn’t failing to charge when the first news sites came online; it was re-purposing the old platform’s material.
Be sure to read the rest, as Rosen discusses ideas related to topics like editing by click rate, trying to make money from online advertising, fighting Google, and doing anything for traffic. But he also warns against the danger of not changing and evolving as most all journalism moves online—we have to evolve, and we have to do it in smart ways.
Submittable was created because the old way of doing things—mailing in hard copies of manuscripts, photos, and films—wasn’t working for anyone anymore. It was wasting time and money, and publishing needed an online submission management system. Journalism as a whole has to evolve as our technology evolves, not just from how they handle submissions, but how they find, cover, write, and publish stories, from start to finish. It will be a struggle, but it will be worth it in the end.