Journalism isn’t dead if you Digg what Dilbert says.

My thanks to Stewart Kirkpatrick (the man who almost single-handedly masterminded the online presence for The Scotsman) for the link on his blog to this article.

It is from Scott Adams, the creator of the unparallelled Dilbert strip cartoon and gives his views on the  future of newspapers.

Like most current or ex-newspaper journalists I fret far more than I should about the future of journalism in the digital age. The advent of mobile phones, blogs and digital cameras mean there is rarely such a thing as a simple bystander when even vaguely newsworth events are unfolding these days.

Instead, eyewitnesses are now transformed into instant correspondents – or “citizen journalists” – with the means to capture events and to get them instantly in front of voracious audience. So does that mean the journalists of my generation (and younger) are kaput?

Many think so. When I started my first newspapers job as a junior reporter with the Edinburgh Evening News I pitched up at the office well scrubbed, shiny and full of optimism. Only to have that youthful exuberance unceremoniously strangled by a cynical old hack who assured me the paper would cease to exist by the year 2000.

Had he predicted the internet? The rise of the digital age? The global sharing of information for free?

Nah, he believed local radio stations and the fledgling satellite operators would put paid to the printed word.

That’s the problem with trying to predict the future. It often ends up as an exercise akin to those articles from the 1950s Daily Mail about how life would change in the decades ahead. So, not only should I now be jobless, but I should  be wearing a bacofoil suit and travelling on a moving pavement to catch a 3D movie with my robot girlfriend.

However, this article is quite refreshing. While its bluntness (newspapers are two mobile phone developments away from extinction) is quite shocking, the alternatives it suggests are both credible and palatable.

Who would complain about being able to pick all the parts of the news you want to get – by type, by geography, by tone and by time – and discard the bits you don’t fancy, with the public having a poweful say in setting the acceptable level of quality? Not me.

With RSS feeds and sites like Digg and Reddit we’re halfway there already – and there’s never been a greater demand for quality writers and journalists.

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3 thoughts on “Journalism isn’t dead if you Digg what Dilbert says.

  1. You’re too kind, Scott. The success of the site formerly known as scotsman.com was due to the great team we had. And that points to the need for journalists to collaborate with techies and commercial types – in the way we never used to in print.

    I absolutely agree about the future of journalism. There has never been a better time to be a journalist. But there’s never been a worse time to work for a paper. Just because there’s never been more demand for news doesn’t mean there’s any hope for the traditional business model of papers.

  2. Indeed. The big problem is who is going to pay for what. There won’t be any working journos if nobody is prepared to pay for carefully researched, accurate, trustworthy and well written copy.

    Later today I will be joining the members of the Natonal Association of Press Agencies for dinner in London. Then tomorrow it is their annual meeting.

    Needless to say, the major topic of conversation will be what the future holds when virtually nobody in the media is prepared to pay for stories posted online. The traditional newspapers are paying less every yearfor what they use on their pages – and for that money they also want to post the stories and pictures on new platforms, including websites and mobile phones.

    You’re absolutely right – it is not a very healthy business model. However, anyone with an interest in journalism should be sitting up and taking notice. I don’t really think NAPA will come up with any answers, as they are too divided. However, such press agencies will be the first to go out of business as payment structures for freelance and independent news services dry up.

    And if the wider world wants to take its news from enthusiastic amateurs, then who am I to argue? I just know this: I wouldn’t want my accounts prepared by someone who taught themselves over the internet; nor an operation carried out by well-intentioned amateur who’d taught his or her self.

    For my money, two very distinct issues are being too conveniently treated as one. The web is an undoubted revelation for the sharing and dissemination of information. However, it is most definitely not an alterantive for the professional researching and gathering of news.

    And I fear the rather beautiful little baby of news gathering (which I have loved dearly all my adult life) is about to be thrown out with the cold and murky waters of the dying newspaper model.

    And for the record, you’re far too modest about your achievements with scotsman.com. Bet The Herald wished they’d had a Stewart Kirkpatrick five years ago!

    On to matters more mundane, isn’t it time me and Mondo were catching you for a pint sometime soon?

  3. You’ve put your finger on the key problem. Everyone wants high quality news but nobody knows how to make it pay online. Because of the economic difficulties of mainstream media this issue has become confused and turned into some non-existent contest between Web 2.0 and journalism. The two are made for each other. It’s the money side of things where the difficulties lie.

    Pint? Darn tootin. My email is mail AT stewart-kirkpatrick DOT com (only using the normal symbols instead of words).

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