A mighty wind

You have to admire the chutzpah of any group that seeks to save journalism from itself by blowing with the wind. But inspired by native forces, the goo-goos at Journalism That Matters gathered in “open space” at a George Washington University cafeteria to agonize over the ill-winds of change. All the right people – which, in the language of the event, were those who were there – blew away inhibitions in feel-good exercises designed to find salvation for journalism at the crossroads. All in about 30 hours. Which is very fast when you consider that journalism has been at someone’s idea of a crossroads for a coupla hundred years.

The outcomes were as predictable as they were quick. Flip-chart wisdom validated pre-planned outcomes including (1) research and education agendas sustaining journalism; (2) “breakthroughs across silos of thought and practice;” and (3) a framework for launching the Next Newsroom, a business with margins that appeal to the low financial expectations of civic-supportive, community investors.

While its agenda is earnest, JTM suffers from dated, naïve assumptions about the ongoing transitions in journalism, community and civic life. And then there are JTM’s breezy rules of engagement: “whoever comes is the right people/whatever happens is the right thing ….” That’s just silly. Serious plans require rigor, talent and scrutiny.

We’re all for journalism that matters. Who isn’t? As far as we can tell there’s nothing stopping journalism-that-matters from happening. Better reporting from the very people who seek better reporting is a good place to start. So would the inclusion of the fairly brilliant innovators outside of journalism’s tortured and clubby network. With so many inspiring innovations, enabling technologies, fresh investment and creative ideas emerging from a media-savvy society it’s hard to embrace a woe-is-journalism agenda. The wind blows forward.

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