Turning inner space into outer space

June 19, 2014

Battle over the future of journalism gets nasty

The news industry’s digital transition is filled with rays of hope, predictions of doom and downright confusion. Some of the greatest minds in journalism have tried to figure out how the profession will thrive in an era where funding for it has become increasingly scarce.

New York University prof Clay Shirky has accused his peers of leading young people astray by implying that there is any future at all in print journalism. He says Ray Chittum of the Columbia Journalism Review and Ken Doctor of Nieman Journalism Lab are among the adults who are lying to students about the future of print.

The way Shirky sees it, newspapers are dying and — rather than be nostalgic about it — we should be up front with journalism students.

Chittum was offended by the implication that he was lying and replied via Twitter with a “f— you.” He later responded with his own post declaring that, while he agrees the future of journalism is digital, he takes a more nuanced approach on print. Today, print still brings in more money than digital and is thus better able to support journalism. The transition to digital is clear, but the business model to support it is not.

I’m glad to see this kind of debate out in the open. Change is never easy, especially when few people can agree on how it will play out. My hope is that young people will read both Shirky and Chittum, then come up with a workable plan of their own — the one that is so far eluding us.