Nieman Foundation at Harvard
HOME
          
LATEST STORY
The New York Times’ new Slack 2016 election bot sends readers’ questions straight to the newsroom
ABOUT                    SUBSCRIBE
March 25, 2009, 7:45 a.m.

Killing innovation with kindness: The Newspaper Revitalization Act

The title of a bill introduced by my U.S. Senator tells me most of what I need to know about how its focus is misguided:

The Newspaper Revitalization Act

Proposed tagline: “Newspapers: Let’s breathe a little life into this patient.”

At its core, the idea isn’t entirely harebrained, especially the notion of making it possible for people to support journalism through donations, but I am immediately suspicious of any effort that has as its starting point that newspapers are precious things to be preserved, forever, like some kind of ubiquitous, everlasting Williamsburg of media.

If the government (the government!) starts getting in the business of propping up the fading part of journalism’s business model, forget the ethical and constitutional issues, it’ll effectively cut off oxygen to the parts of the business that are trying to innovate. In the past 6-12 months, I believe it’s been the panic around the breakdown of the old business model that has allowed more talk of change to rise to the surface in newspaper executive suites. The worst thing that could happen would be for newspaper companies to find the means to suddenly become comfortable again.

Jason Calacanis, serial tech entrepreneur and owner of Mahalo.com, talked about this on This Week in Tech (TWiT) in the most recent episode, when the host asked him what happens when newspapers and other traditional media experience the kinds of business model disruption that are happening right now:

“Most of the time people can’t make the evolutionary shift. It’s just too difficult. You’re better off just shutting some of these things down. And you know what: Don’t cry for the newspapers. It’s an opportunity for young people with new ideas to make better things than newspapers… Don’t cry for the newspaper business. I’m sick of that. Engadget as a blog or This Week in Tech as a show are much better — Lifehacker, etc. — than the tech products that came before them. They’re better than ZDNet. They’re better than CNet. They’re better than PC Magazine. Nobody’s crying because G4TV‘s gone. Who cares? Who gives a crap about TechTV? TWiT is better. People have this thing that progress everywhere else is good, but in the newspaper business, progress is bad. I think not killing trees is a good thing.” (Around 1:19 into the show)

Painful as it is, I think he’s right. If the news industry has any life — or influence — left in it, showing why this ill-advised bill is a bad idea — reporting and editorializing on it — would be a good place to start.

IMO, as they say online.

POSTED     March 25, 2009, 7:45 a.m.
SHARE THIS STORY
   
Show comments  
Show tags
 
Join the 15,000 who get the freshest future-of-journalism news in our daily email.
The New York Times’ new Slack 2016 election bot sends readers’ questions straight to the newsroom
“Instead of asking you to come to us and be part of this massive room of people shouting over each other, you can bring us to you, and have us be, essentially, one more person in your conversation.”
The Conversation expands across the U.S., freshly funded by universities and foundations
The news site that uses academics as reporters and journalists as editors now boasts 19 paying member universities and is opening up posts in Atlanta (and maybe in the Bay Area).
A Boston public radio station is redesigning its site to make audio “a first-class citizen online”
But: “I’ve tried to be really disciplined about not calling this process just a redesign,” WBUR’s executive editor for digital Tiffany Campbell said. “We’ve built a brand new platform.”
What to read next
0
tweets
Newsonomics: Setting the news table for 2016
The news business hopes it won’t end up one sandwich short of a picnic as the new year’s big trends unfold.
0The sun never sets on The Times: How and why the British paper built its new weekly international app
“We’re pursuing the idea of editions everywhere. An edition is something that can be finished. When you’ve read it, you feel up-to-date; you’ve been told what you need to know for the day or the week.”
0Hot Pod: Is the next front in podcast innovation hardware?
Plus, 21st Century Fox invests in a new podcast network, and some thoughts on the second season of Serial.
These stories are our most popular on Twitter over the past 30 days.
See all our most recent pieces ➚
Encyclo is our encyclopedia of the future of news, chronicling the key players in journalism’s evolution.
Here are a few of the entries you’ll find in Encyclo.   Get the full Encyclo ➚
Mother Jones
Kickstarter
The Daily
Bloomberg Businessweek
CBS News
Houston Chronicle
New York
The Ann Arbor Chronicle
New England Center for Investigative Reporting
Fox News
Las Vegas Sun
CNN