Fried Oreos and the future of news

Fried Oreos overwhelm my palate, as I discovered when I was in Atlanta this weekend. The grease from the dough hangs out in the back of my throat, and boots any sweet residuals from the cookie right down to my stomach. But the people one table over from mine at the Glenwood Gastro Pub Saturday night could not get enough of them.

That made for kind of precursor for the talk I gave at the Society of Professional Journalists convention the following morning. I was part of a three-hour morning workshop on freelancing.  My job was to start us off by setting up the state of the market.

I feel like journalists are a little overwhelmed by the state of the market — the grease is just hanging around, booting all the good stuff going out of our gullets, making us feel like we’re in the maw of the mortuary for the profession.  So even though I titled my talk “It’s a great time to be a journalist — unless you have mortgage and kids,” I aimed to accentuate the positive.  It really is an exciting time to be in journalism, to have all these new ways to tell stories, to be able to engage in conversations with your audience about them, which can make journalism feel less abstract.

It is a lousy time for the business, especially print, and most prominently traditional newspapers in the West. But text isn’t going away.  We just haven’t figured out how to make money on it in a digital realm, or not with the profit margins of print.  Competition is also much broader on the Web, in a sense — from an advertiser’s perspective, journalists compete not just with blogs and social media sites and auction sites but with word processors and spreadsheets and security software!

The model will get worked out.  Journalism will survive.  Some parts of it will go the way of the town crier or the telegraph. But we’ll still be here, telling stories, making a difference, and making people want more.

Leave a Reply