Steven Berlin Johnson over at OutsideIn, which I wrote about in June 2007 for the Chicago Sun-Times, brought wonderful clarity to the situation of legacy news operations yesterday at a presentation at South By Southwest. He envisions an evolving news ecosystem and with clarity places newspapers as a foundational gathering operation. He also cautioned that it is important to move forward to a vision rather than cling to the old.
But in times like these, when all that is solid is melting into air, as Marx said of another equally turbulent era, itâ€™s important that we try to imagine how weâ€™d like the future to turn out and set our sights on that, and not just struggle to keep the past alive for a few more years.
Steve says so well what I have been stumbling around trying to articulate here in Chicago. In evidence of the beauty of the Web, I was able to read his comments and see a video of him presenting the day after he did it – glorious access to information!
At a Poynter Institute event here in Chicago yesterday, the reality Steve describes was coming sharply into focus in the discussion. It is so sad that newspapers and some other legacy media do not see the preciousness of their brands and how important it is to preserve THAT so that they can have a place in the new ecosystem. Could be that they think their brand is a logo and marks, not something organic that emerges from the way that they operate.
Newspapers don’t need to go more deeply into the “swamp” of disinformation or useless eye candy to have a role in the new forest. They need to do a LOT more of what they do well â€” good local reporting â€” and spread cooperatively through their value systems to work with partners. Unfortunately, some newspapers like the Sun-Times where I used to work have been sucked dry of their newsroom resources by their business operating model. The Sun-Times is operated by a hedge fund, and all it wants is a dollar return. Hedge funds don’t value one bit the social return that is evident in a well-done newspaper newsroom.
It’s one reason why I am on the soap box for theL3C hybrid for news businesses. It’s great to hear Steve’s vision and here in Chicago, many of us are working to develop a healthy new ecosystem. Below is Steve’s flow chart for news delivery. You can watch a video of the presentation here.