IT was only, I guess, a matter of time before the digital utopians started telling us — including laid off scribes — how great journalism has gotten. The latest is a Wired piece, “How the Smartphone Ushered in a Golden Age of Journalism. (It’s venture capitalist Marc Andreessen, and not the Wired writer, who calls it a “golden age.”)
Certainly, a very selective reading of the most hopeful developments — there’s good work being done in many places, The New Yorker still comes out every week, we have high hopes for Glenn Greenwald’s new site, and soon — would make it seem like things are humming along.
But if you look at the newsrooms cut in half, the state capitols with almost no reporters watching them, and the papers that continue to fold, the suggestion of a golden age is just ludicrous. Salon’s Andrew Leonard gets it right here, where he refers to the way several billionaires have recently invested serious sums in news organizations:
But what kind of money is coming out of it? A true golden age of journalism, if it is to last more than a few ephemeral years subsidized by check-writing billionaires and venture-capital speculation, will require that publishers make a profit and writers and reporters can make a decent living.
But I’m not hearing from a whole lot of happy writers. If you are lucky, you might be able to command a freelance pay rate that hasn’t budged in 30 years. But more people than ever work for nothing.
Yes, there are a handful of high-profile start-ups making waves, but it’s not at all clear that they’ve replaced the hundreds and thousands of metro and foreign desk reporter jobs that have vanished in the last decade… And “nationwide, the number of full-time reporters covering state capitals was cut almost in half between 2003 and 2009.
The recent Clay Shirky post, Last Call, looks at just how dire things are for print journalism, especially when you look at the collapse of print ad revenue.
If you are a one-percenter in Silicon Valley — and believe us “content providers” should work for free — I expect things look a lot different.