What We're Reading: Challenging the Age's News Gurus

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istockphoto.com
pages of a book
istockphoto.com

Is it possible that journalism as we have known it is not going to die, after all? That the Digital Age gurus who have dominated the discussion for the last decade have been spinning self-fulfilling, if not self-beneficial, prophecies that sound like so much wisdom in theory but have little do with what is happening in fact?

Dean Starkman has shaken off the blues that dominates newsrooms today to stand back and look at just what the three leading gurus—Jay Rosen, Jeff Jarvis and Clay Shirky—are saying and concludes in a long, thoughtful essay in the current issue of the Columbia Journalism Review that the emperors have few clothes. They may, really, just be verbal bullies.

He doesn't totally discredit them. There is no doubt that technology is changing media and media habits. But Starkman makes a case that the economic bottom may have been hit for professional, public interest journalism—and even the companies such as The New York Times that practice it—and celebrates its savior. The crowd-sourcing, citizen journalism, networks and the like championed by the gurus all has value, Starkman says, but will never replace the dogged digging and reporting by professional journalists freed from the hamster wheel that is so much digital journalism today.

Without being bombastic or nostalgic, Starkman makes one of the best cases I have read in criticizing the gurus and analyzing some news trends today. He also calls for some "new, new thinking."

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