Journalism gets more and more difficult

“It grows more and more difficult to cover a world without boundaries, where everything is related to everything else.”

My only prediction for 2023 is that no one’s predictions (even this one) will be right. The world is too volatile — and I suppose that suggests a prediction — that volatility will not have disappeared by the end of 2023. The world’s nations, well beyond the U.S., are politically volatile. The global economy is volatile in its ever greater integration that makes us dependent on supply chains that sometimes collapse. It is extraordinarily mobile with political, economic, social-ethnic and climate disasters prompting mass migrations. It is increasingly dependent on the good or bad sense, good or bad judgment of a smaller and smaller number of idiosyncratic (or idiot) business barons, backward-looking fantasists (Putin), and astonishing narcissists (Trump) who keep themselves insulated from that humble brake on human pride and ambition called — hopefully — “reality.” Some or all of these forces will succeed in crushing even the most sensible or far-sighted predictions.

And speaking of volatility and global integration, I haven’t even included our continuing pandemic although, at the moment, my wife has just got over Covid and I now have Covid myself — yes, we both are fully vaccinated; yes, our symptoms are on the mild side (thank you, medical research; thank you, masks, that early on when they were not easy to find in the U.S. friends from South Korea and Hong Kong shipped to us).

What does this have to do with journalism? Pretty much everything. If news organizations dedicated to evidence-based professional work and to the democratic aspiration to hold power to account survive, their work will grow increasingly difficult because it grows more and more difficult to cover a world without boundaries, where everything is related to everything else, where the sports section is also politics and business, where the food section is also about gender and about environmental losses, and where journalistic ambition correctly seeks to inform readers and viewers about social developments that cannot be neatly pegged to a given event of the day. Hats off to the brave souls who want nonetheless to tackle this.

Michael Schudson is a professor of journalism at Columbia University.

My only prediction for 2023 is that no one’s predictions (even this one) will be right. The world is too volatile — and I suppose that suggests a prediction — that volatility will not have disappeared by the end of 2023. The world’s nations, well beyond the U.S., are politically volatile. The global economy is volatile in its ever greater integration that makes us dependent on supply chains that sometimes collapse. It is extraordinarily mobile with political, economic, social-ethnic and climate disasters prompting mass migrations. It is increasingly dependent on the good or bad sense, good or bad judgment of a smaller and smaller number of idiosyncratic (or idiot) business barons, backward-looking fantasists (Putin), and astonishing narcissists (Trump) who keep themselves insulated from that humble brake on human pride and ambition called — hopefully — “reality.” Some or all of these forces will succeed in crushing even the most sensible or far-sighted predictions.

And speaking of volatility and global integration, I haven’t even included our continuing pandemic although, at the moment, my wife has just got over Covid and I now have Covid myself — yes, we both are fully vaccinated; yes, our symptoms are on the mild side (thank you, medical research; thank you, masks, that early on when they were not easy to find in the U.S. friends from South Korea and Hong Kong shipped to us).

What does this have to do with journalism? Pretty much everything. If news organizations dedicated to evidence-based professional work and to the democratic aspiration to hold power to account survive, their work will grow increasingly difficult because it grows more and more difficult to cover a world without boundaries, where everything is related to everything else, where the sports section is also politics and business, where the food section is also about gender and about environmental losses, and where journalistic ambition correctly seeks to inform readers and viewers about social developments that cannot be neatly pegged to a given event of the day. Hats off to the brave souls who want nonetheless to tackle this.

Michael Schudson is a professor of journalism at Columbia University.

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