Another interesting debate in class today, where I got a bit heated and yelled at some fellow classmates who were trashing news executives for “failing” to find a way to pay for what they see as the one true journalism–i.e. objective, general-interest and long-form. I tried to remind them that this model was a 20th century anomaly; for most of its history, journalism has been short, snappy, niche and opinionated. Why are we all hung up on mourning a fluke?
I don’t rejoice when old media companies go down; I think longtime professionals have a level of expertise that is more, not less, valuable in the emerging niche media world and I want them to stay in the field and on the airwaves. To do so, I believe we in media have to take the long view and recognize that the place media is headed looks an awful lot like the places we’ve been in the past, so we can calm down and drop this obsession with 1970s style reporting.
To that end, in addition to yelling at my classmates, I’m researching and writing about older media models that might serve as more relevant precedents: one model is the Victorian radical press, which I’ve described in today’s Columbia Journalism Review. This winter, I’ll be combing the 1830’s French press for another option. Where and when else should I be looking?