Today I am adding my voice to those who are rallying via blogs to protest the possible shutdown of the Boston Globe by its parent, the NY Times Co. If we were marching in front the NYT offices, carrying banners and placards, my would read: “Lead the revolution, don’t turn your back on it.”
Clay Shirky has written and spoken eloquently about the reasons for the demise of newspapers and suggests that perhaps “they had it coming” for not seeing the internet coming. But he also says, “Society doesn’t need newspapers. What we need is journalism.” And an environment — a social architecture — in which journalists can learn their craft from masters. Newspapers provide such an environment, and the Globe’s rich history of journalism awards speaks for the generations of apprentices who have become masters.
We are in the middle of a revolution, and the economics of running a newspaper in a time when people can get their news from the internet are stark. The old business model is not affordable, but that doesn’t mean we should shut down the business — we need creative thinking of the kind that wins journalism awards to design a new model that gets the news to the online masses as well as provides investigative reporting, reflection, and context.
A friend once told me about a science fiction book he’d read. Post apocalypse, in a world bereft of information and telecommunications technologies, knowledge was passed only from person to person. One day, a character perhaps like our modern Wall-E digs through an ancient garbage dump and discovers a new technology that will bring this distopic society back to light: a pencil.