Monday, March 26, 2007

Cockeyed Optimism

I'm not in the habit of commenting there and publishing here (it really should be one or the other, shouldn't it?), but Jeff Jarvis struck a nerve over at The Buzz Machine with his call for comments on why anyone should be optimistic about the future of news in a post headlined "Nabobs of negativism v. cock-eyed optimists".

In the interest of full disclosure: I am.

Here's what I wrote over there:

The good news is great news: there is no evidence that the public interest in news has waned. We just don’t know exactly what people
I feel like a kid in a candy store most days, free to be disloyal or to ignore, to find out what’s happening on my terms. Or to skip a day or two and catch up later.
are doing or like – and maybe they don’t either since the volume of choice -- in content and means of consumption -- can tend to breed fickleness. The theorists call this "fragmentation."

I feel like a kid in a candy store most days, free to be disloyal or to ignore, to find out what’s happening on my terms. Or to skip a day or two and catch up later. Catch me if you can, metric-boy!

The definition of news may be expanding (thank you Jon Stewart and Bill Maher) and the way we get our news may remain a moving target for some time to come, but the appetite is not going away. I would even take the over and bet that it is borderline insatiable: how else to explain all the passion behind strident comments about media accuracy and comprehensiveness? Why else would there be multiple comments on routine local stories?

The Internet saved the news business.
The Internet saved the news business.

Without the Internet, television would have been the dominant medium, without portability, interactivity or the ability to delve deep all the time, every time, infinite in all directions (apologies to Freeman Dyson).

Our inability to understand how to perfectly exploit the digital medium after 10 years or so shouldn’t be surprising or demoralizing. We still can’t count TV viewership in prime time properly, 50 years on. The patient ones among us will prevail and flourish and if that means keeping some extra powder dry for a while, so be it.

This isn’t the first era of paradigmatic change for news and, with any luck -- any luck -- it won’t be the last one, either.

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