People have been free-king-out about Jeff Bezos’ purchase of The Washington Post. In part, I get it. New media is scary. It’s especially scary when it appears to threaten to replace old media. When newspapers have long been the guardians of democracy, it’s not hard to freak out a little when it appears they are going away, sucked into the virtual world of pay-per-click media responsible for such journalistic gems as “The 18 Greatest Dog Smiles Ever sponsored by DENTASTIX®”
There are things to fear with new media. Native ads often make underwritten content blend right into “real” journalistic content. New funding models are often unstable, making writers’ pay unstable, which sometimes discourages the best journalists to bail. The new media’s organizational structures are often less transparent, making the lines between editorial and sales blurry.
Are these real problems? Yes. But if you look closely, not a single one are limited to online media. Real, live, flammable newspapers have struggled with the same issues. Print media has had centuries to iron some of these things out. Digital media is just sorting it all out.
I know these are all real issues because I am a journalist. Though I write for a living everyday, you can’t find any of my work on paper. If the internet broke tomorrow, my entire career would disappear. That may sound scary, especially coupled with the above issues, but I think it’s awesome. I think it’s exciting. There is one thing that makes it all worth the risk: The journalism industry is on precipice of great change, and I get to be a part of it.
It’s thrilling, right? That is actually how I feel about the “demise” of newspapers as well. It’s sad when things end, but what we’ll come up with to replace it is being created now. We’re all a part of it, and it’s pretty awesome.
According to the Newspaper Association of America, 57% of 18-34-year-olds read newspapers or their online editions each week. So don’t worry about the news disappearing. Don’t worry about democracy being impacted or advertisers taking over editorial content. OK, worry a little. Worry just enough to keep an eye on how the industry works through these issues, and be a part of changing if it gets off course. But don’t fear the end of journalism. We’re just on an adventure into the future. And I believe integrity in reporting, growth in readership, sustainable revenue models and democracy-preserving journalism will emerge – is already emerging, in fact – along the way.