He spoke hard truths to young journalists everywhere, and he faced their Twitter wrath. But Fusion Senior Editor Felix Salmon still sees a golden age for his profession—if you got in early.
“There’s amazing journalism going on everywhere,” Salmon told Jorge Ramos. “But precisely because there’s so much supply of great journalism from all manner of new people coming in to the business, which is very exciting for people like me, it also means that the amount of money you can make, the idea that you can have a long career, that you can get a lot of experience… has never been less true.”
CUNY journalism professor Jeff Jarvis joined the debate, and he was quick to defend those committed to the craft as it is rapidly evolving today.
“The essence of it Jorge, I think, is that we have to switch from the idea that journalism is a content factory,” Jarvis said. “Instead we have to change to an idea where journalism is a service to people. Content fills things. Services accomplish things.”
Jarvis’s new book Geeks Bearing Gifts imagines a vibrant future for news that may be unrecognizable from its mainstream forms today. He argues that in order for journalism to truly succeed as a service, it must be measured by how much it adds to the community—which can often require journalists to serve as advocates rather than straight reporters.
It’s a touchy subject for those who believe in the classic just-the-facts journalistic approach, and Salmon asked what lessons Jarvis can offer when the Internet is already bursting with well-expressed and varied opinions. It’s all about combining time-tested practice with the new forms and connections of the digital age, Jarvis responded.
“What we do, I think is teach people how to do real journalism, not just opinions,” Jarvis said.
Jarvis also argues that journalism can survive in the modern era by updating its business model, focusing less on broadcast and walled-off news organizations and more on reporting targeted at specific audiences.
At the same time, Salmon argued that the Brian Williams scandal, where a prominent network anchor was found to be misrepresenting his war zone reporting, shows the importance of news institutions and their controls.
“Every individual is fallible,” Salmon said. “So you need institutions which are very good at making sure that you don’t make mistakes.”
Even though the classic broadcast news model survives today much as it has for decades, Ramos observed that this could soon change, and his job as a regular news anchor might not exist in ten years. Jarvis said it’s not time to expand the “dinosaur” museum just yet.
“I think the fact that you personally are on Twitter, have a viewpoint, say what that viewpoint is, is going to save you because we get to know you as a person and not just as an institution,” Jarvis said.