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How is Journalism Like Competitive Government?

July 13, 2009

Clay Shirky offers up the first essay in the new Cato Unbound. It’s about the future of journalism, or what I like to refer to as the death of the Ivy League journalist. Yes, those halcyon days of putting in fifty hours-a-week at the Harvard Crimson, all in the hope of earning that perch on the Times’ National desk are over. That’s like trying to be a poet. Anyway, reading Shirky, I had a brainwave: the decline of the newspaper industry and the rise of open source style news offers a great metaphor for the land of a thousand nations. Here’s what I’ll do to help you out. Quoting from Shirky’s essay, I will erase every instance of the word “journalism” and replace it with “government” or “politics” or some such. I see a bright new future in this Shirky remix. Enjoy:

Because journalism government has always been subsidized, and because the public can increasingly get involved in activities too complex for loose groups to take on before the current era, journalism sovereignty is seeping into the population at large, with the models of subsidy being altered to fit that shift. The transition here is like the spread of the ability to drive, from paid chauffeurs to the whole population. We still pay people to drive, from buses to race cars, and there are more paid drivers today than there were in the days of the chauffeur. Paid drivers are, however, no longer the majority of all drivers.

Like driving, journalism governing is not a profession — no degree or certification is required to practice it, and training often comes after hiring — and it is increasingly being transformed into an activity, open to all, sometimes done well, sometimes badly, but at a volume that simply cannot be supported by a small group of full-time workers. The journalistic political models that will excel in the next few years will rely on new forms of creation, some of which will be done by professionals, some by amateurs, some by crowds, and some by machines.

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  1. July 15, 2011 1:29 am

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