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Hirschorn on the End of The Times

By - January 07, 2009

Michael Hirschorn, who I have worked with on failed print endeavors (Inside, the magazine, back in 2000), writes a thoughtful piece on the end of print journalism, and in particular the New York Times, in – irony alert – the Feb. issue of the Atlantic, which – double irony alert – I read online and would never have seen otherwise, given I no longer subscribe to the print version.

The NYT Co. is an investor in my company. I wish them only well. But I do differ somewhat with Michael when he writes:



Regardless of what happens over the next few months, The Times is destined for significant and traumatic change. At some point soon—sooner than most of us think—the print edition, and with it The Times as we know it, will no longer exist. And it will likely have plenty of company.



I believe the print edition will continue, but in a very different form. Print, as I’ve been saying since the days of Wired, will continue in the digital age, but it will have to pass new tests of value before it can survive. Print has to justify the costs associated with print, now that there are options for information beyond print.

The key issue Michael raises is “how will great journalism get done without institutions like the New York Times?” He goes on to answer that the model of journalism itself is due for an overhaul, and I cannnot agree more. In fact I’d go way, way further than he’s gone. More on that in an upcoming post.


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3 thoughts on “Hirschorn on the End of The Times

  1. Gary Lee says:

    I believe that print media has one foot in the grave already, but there are a lot of tough transitions ahead before we can start piling on the dirt. One of the toughest transitions between print media and online media is the actual transition of powers. Editors and uppermanagement, who have been successful for years in the print world feel out of place in this new online world and have been frantically trying to catch up to not lose their position of authority in the company. These kind of power struggles can tear companies apart, but I’d like to think that these are the times that show who real leaders and team players are.

  2. Adam says:

    “How will great journalism get done without institutions like the New York Times?”

    see:
    http://waxy.org/
    http://holovaty.com/
    http://www.boston.com/bigpicture/

    Using data/information that’s already out there (but not easy to get at), tech-savy individuals who are interested in a given topic can go a long way in producing great journalism.

  3. Tom Crowl says:

    The most critical loss which the general failure of the newspaper model portends is the loss of its independent news gathering and editorial functions and role as an needed civic HUB for DIFFERING views.

    This is in needed contrast to the current blog model which tends to concentrate opinion along differing sides of any issue.

    This loss has been in progress for quite a while and if the television news experience provides any example, the future does not look good for local communities, the nation or the world.

    In order to preserve these essential functions as part of our vital “commons” we can combine them with other functions which both serve to inform and empower its members.

    Under a for-profit model with some unique characteristics. I have specific ideas along these lines covered elsewhere.

    I copy the below from the conclusion of the article by W. DANIEL HILLIS “A Forebrain For The World Mind” at…

    http://www.edge.org/q2009/q09_12.html#hillis

    (Mr. Hillis is a Physicist, Computer Scientist; Chairman, Applied Minds, Inc.; Author, The Pattern on the Stone)

    “What is still missing is the ability for a group of people (or people and machines) to make collective decisions with intelligence greater than the individual. This can sometimes be accomplished in small groups through conversation, but the method does not scale well. Generally speaking, technology has made the conversation larger, but not smarter. For large groups, the state-of-the-art method for collective decision-making is still the vote. Voting only works to the degree that, on average, each voter is able to individually determine the right decision. This is not good enough. We need an intelligence that will scale with the size of our problems.

    So this is the development that will make a difference: a method for groups of people and machines to work together to make decisions in a way that takes advantage of scale. With such a scalable method for collective decision-making, our zillions of transistors and billions of brains can be used to advantage, giving the collective mind a way to focus our collective actions. Given this, we will finally have access to intelligence greater than our own. The world mind will finally have a forebrain, and this will change everything.”

    and also this quote from Iqbal Quadir founder of Grameenphone…

    (Grameenphone is the largest mobile phone company in Bangladesh with 20.84 million customers as of August, 2008 It is also one the fastest growing cellular telephone network in Bangladesh.)

    “If concentration of power has contributed to poor governance, the solution must lie in dispersing power… ICTs empower from below while devolving power from above, resulting in a two-pronged attack on abuse of state power that has left so much of the world’s population languishing in poverty… ICTs can be the means to both freedom and development by blindsiding obstacles to both.”

    Dispersing power while scaling decision making must incorporate two essential characteristics…

    Technologies of not only communication but also motivation across social distance (proximity substitutes)

    and a recognition of the effects of “natural human community size” on the decision making process.

    Political theory must incorporate concepts from game theory.

    I also believe there is a fractal relationship (self-similarity) which must be attended to in scaling Representative Government.