Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Not Sure About That...

I think, on this one, Seth Godin is just wrong.

He makes a good point, from a purely market-driven stance, but I fear he misses the forest through the un-pulped trees.

He posits that the most valuable thing that newspapers do, which is not consistently being done (sometimes) better online, is investigative journalism. True enough, in many cases, but I think Godin is grossly downplaying what goes into an investigative piece, or, indeed, even a standard piece of reporting.

As Thom Garvey and I have pointed out recently, even arts and culture stories like the investigation into the Citi Center for the Performing Arts, need some type of institutional power behind them. True, there are countless successful investigative pieces that have been written by freelance journalists, but the ones that really speak truth to power are often the product of news organizations putting their financial and institutional power behind them. (And that's before we even get into legal ramifications.)

Now, I know that Godin is more just speculating about what the inevitable future may be, but his tone betrays too much free market trust for my taste. For instance, here is one of his statements:

if we really care about the investigation and the analysis, we'll pay for it one way or another. Maybe it's a public good, a non profit function. Maybe a philanthropist puts up money for prizes. Maybe the Woodward and Bernstein of 2017 make so much money from breaking a story that it leads to a whole new generation of journalists.

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