We need more chaos in the news business

Clay Shirky argues we need for the news business to be more chaotic than it is because ” there are many more ways of getting and reporting the news that we haven’t tried than that we have.” Here are some excerpts from his latest essay:

Buy a newspaper. Cut it up. Throw away the ads. Sort the remaining stories into piles. Now, describe the editorial logic holding those piles together.

For all that selling such a bundle was a business, though, people have never actually paid for news. We have, at most, helped pay for the things that paid for the news.

But even in their worst days, newspapers supported the minority of journalists reporting actual news, for the minority of citizens who cared.

I could tell (my) students that when I was growing up, the only news I read was thrown into our front yard by a boy on a bicycle. They might find this interesting, but only in the way I found it interesting that my father had grown up without indoor plumbing.

News has to be subsidized because society’s truth-tellers can’t be supported by what their work would fetch on the open market. Real news—reporting done for citizens instead of consumers—is a public good.

A 30% reduction in newsroom staff, with more to come, means this is the crisis, right now. Any way of creating news that gets cost below income, however odd, is a good way, and any way that doesn’t, however hallowed, is bad.

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