New-media consultant and BuzzMachine author Jeff Jarvis blames the death of print on the journalists, not management. This has gotten on Slate writer Ron Rosenbaum’s nerves:
I used to like Jeff Jarvis: I’ve never met him, but I felt I knew him from his blog, which I’ve read fairly regularly since he began blogging eloquently about 9/11. …What I liked about his blog was that it was personal and immediate. He’s a natural at the form, with an ability to entwine his life and those of the rest of us in his musings.
But something has changed in the last year or two: He’s now visibly running for New Media Pontificator in Chief. He began treating his own thoughts as profound and epigrammatic, PowerPoint-paradoxical, new-media-mystical. He acquired the habit of proclaiming “Jarvis’ Laws” of new media, acting like a prophet, a John the Baptist if not the messiah. (Although he knows who the messiah is. He’s about to publish a book of Google worship—What Would Google Do?—that makes that clear.)
Meanwhile, he’s become increasingly heartless about the reporters, writers, and other “content providers” who have been put out on the street by the changes in the industry. Not only does he blame the victims, he denies them the right to consider themselves victims. They deserve their miserable fate—and if they don’t know it, he’ll tell them why at great length. Sometimes it sounds as if he’s virtually dancing on their graves.
Consider Jarvis’ response to an essay by Paul Farhi that suggested the current crisis in journalism might not be entirely the fault of journalists. Jarvis parried with a cruel, disdainful rant contending that writers and reporters deserve their fate:
The fall of journalism is, indeed, journalists’ fault. It is our fault that we did not see the change coming soon enough and ready our craft for the transition. It is our fault that we did not see and exploit—hell, we resisted—all the opportunities new media and new relationships with the public presented. It is our fault that we did not give adequate stewardship to journalism and left the business to the business people. It is our fault that we lost readers and squandered trust. It is our fault that we sat back and expected to be supported in the manner to which we had become accustomed by some unknown princely patron. Responsibility and blame are indeed ours.
I have a strong feeling that when he says “we” and “ours,” he really means everyone but him and his fellow new-media gurus. Not all reporters had the prescience to become new-media consultants. A lot of good, dedicated people who have done actual writing and reporting, as opposed to writing about writing and reporting, have been caught up in this great upheaval, and many of them may have been too deeply involved in, you know, content—”subjects,” writing about real peoples’ lives—to figure out that reporting just isn’t where it’s at, that the smart thing to do is get a consulting gig.
And the ripping has just begun >
For what it’s worth, we’re as down on printed newspapers as Jeff is, but we sure as hell don’t blame the journalists. We don’t blame anyone, really. If newspapers had dealt with the arrival of the Internet successfully, it would have been a miracle. The online media business is a vastly different business. And it’s difficult enough to succeed when it’s the only business you’re focused on–let alone when you’re dragging a dying print cash cow around.
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