A professor makes what will seem to some a radical suggestion to disconnect journalism from news, but he belabors the obvious in making the argument and offers little suggestion for a business model that might support his vision of journalism’s future.
NYU scholar and author Stephens (The Rise of the Image, the Fall of the Word, 1998, etc.) contends that the future of journalism no longer lies within the hallowed ground of reporting, objectivity and facts. Facts are everywhere in the age of the Internet, as is news, and almost all of what journalism once commodified is available for free. So, what now, and what’s next? The author argues for the sort of analysis (he prefers interpretation) that is in fact widely practiced and that goes beyond who, what, when and where to focus on why and how. His “call for more interpretation in journalism” further suggests that the future of journalism is in the hands of specialists—maybe even scholars and public intellectuals—where journalism has traditionally regarded its reporters as generalists. What we need are “wisdom journalists, looking not for news but for the meaning and consequences of that news.” Editors have generally been moving in that direction anyway, as social media has made even the 24/7 TV news cycle seem a little dated. Further, the Web is rife with analysis and interpretation—journalism that provides expertise, depth, context and substance—as well as opinion and “facts” (some of which are skewed or prove to be simply untrue). Stephens’ confidence that readers “haven’t had all that much difficulty filtering out the foolishness” isn’t necessarily warranted, as spin becomes increasingly polarized and lies go viral. But even if each of us is qualified to serve as a gatekeeper, where is the revenue to support the wisdom journalism of those who might have once been employed by the sort of news organizations that this book suggests are obsolete?
Like the news itself, an analysis that must be read with a critical eye.