Opinion | Journalism Is Broken and I Alone Can Fix It!

“Grid is for people like you and me who follow the news but want more. Many of us are inundated with updates on unrelenting crises. The tide prioritizes the new, not necessarily the important.” wrote Grid News Executive Editor Laura McGann this week as the site went live. Favoring the “important” over the “new” is hardly a renegade idea. Likewise, Grid’s “360” reporting approach – an interdisciplinary dig at a topic with multiple simultaneous stories – hardly reinvents the wheel. Feature films and investigative series do this all the time.

Maybe the idea will catch fire, but it reminds me of the original concept at Vox, which was to decompose stories into stackable, updated “Vox Cards” to serve as guides to ongoing news. “Our mission has never been more important than it is right now: Empower through understanding,” says the founding of Vox I believe stated as if no other publication had any intentions of giving their readers an advantage with fresh writing. But two years later, it was Vox Cards dead.

Last September’s Puck News mission statement played the obvious card to readers in its September opener. Editor-in-Chief Jon Kelly wrote, “We wanted to create a brand that focused on the inside conversation — the story behind the story, the details and the plot that only the true insiders knew.” Isn’t it the goal of every aspiring writer and editor who Get inside story? If it’s a given, why would an editor hoot and holler that it’s your goal?

If stating the obvious is a crime, it’s Justin Smith and Ben Smith – whose names are yet to be released global news organization just entered startup mode – should be convicted and jailed immediately. defector Writer Albert Burneko rightly ridiculed Smith and Smith for their plans to target their new operation at the planet’s 200 million English-speaking college graduates, who they believe are underserved by the current press. You could argue that the 200 million are underserved, Burneko notes, but only if you ignore the output of New York Times, that Washington Post, that Wall Street Journal, that Los Angeles Times, that Atlantic, that New Yorker, new York Magazine, harps, TIME, that National Review, that New Republic, Insider, The Intercept, ProPublica, Columbia Journalism Review, vanity fair, Mother Jones, the Federalist, the nation, Jacobin, that Washington Examiner, that hill, ground, Bloomberg and the Daily Beast.

While no one should underestimate Smith and Smith, and everyone should applaud their promise to create something new, no one has said what form it will take, other than that it will be awesome. in a (n internal note that Axios’ Sara Fischer smoked out, Justin Smith claims that “existing news institutions” were “ill-equipped to change direction.” Surrendering to the catastrophe that many new mediums rejoice in – remember when Jim VandeHei asserted at the founding of Axios: “Media is Broken — and too often a scam”? — Smith wrote that the news business was in shambles. “In view of the technological and social upheavals of the last two decades, traditional editorial institutions have almost become obsolete paralyzed – operationally, politically, culturally,” he explained [emphasis added in both quotations].

Broken? Paralyzed? Yes, most dailies have been in decline for decades, and few of them are generating the 30 percent margins they had before Internet competition scorched them. But it’s a crazy exaggeration to call traditional institutions limping. Didn’t New York Times save yourself from going under thanks to record subscription income? did that Just just don’t pay $500 million for the Athletic? The wrestler didn’t just go for about 200 million dollars? Axel Springer doesn’t have it Buy the parts of Insider it didn’t already own for $343 million in 2015 and POLITICO just recently for $1 billion? Selling prices by themselves don’t prove that journalism isn’t as broken as the naysayers claim, but they do show a kind of journalistic vitality. Readers, many of whom are willing to pay for what they consume, want what these outlets put out, whether it’s sprawling investigative articles or succinct morning newsletters.

So if the current journalistic scene is such a fiasco, why are so many challengers rushing to compete with the incumbents? Obviously because new entrants assume they can make money and build lasting institutions — or sell them for a profit. The journalistic landscape has always been fluid, old giants giving way to new aspirants. It stands to reason that the newcomers, many of whom are on the way to the new media establishment, would adopt the PR logic that old is bad and new is great because of course they are new. It also stands to reason that if they succeed, they will adopt many of the wrinkles they criticized in their founding statements. POLITICO’s 2007 founding statement promised, “We don’t normally chase the story of the day,” a statement that soon became obsolete.

Not every startup brags about reshaping the journalistic world. A year ago, the Punchbowl News crew underpromised and delivered too much with this modest mission statement: “We will remain relentlessly focused on the people of Washington making decisions and on the news and events that will move political markets.” .” With the launch of Airmail in 2019, Graydon Carter just promised more of what he thinks people like. “Our goal is to bring you a zippy, fun, yet serious weekend edition, delivered to your inbox every Saturday morning at 6am New York time,” Carter wrote. “We want to surprise you.” Who were his future readers? “You will be a highly evolved person. They’re not backpackers and they’re not in Las Vegas drinking champagne and sitting in their heart-shaped bathtub,” he said told that New York Times.

What do news founders own to inhabit the grandiose? The profits at the New York Times aren’t that great that anyone would invest the money necessary to replace them. When targeting investors, founders feel compelled to exaggerate the novelty of their potential startups and craft the most exaggerated headlines for their baby’s birth announcements. Too often, it seems, the founder is still drunk on his own artistry when introducing his publication to his readers.


the original Motto for the Adolph Ochs era New York Times was “It won’t soil the breakfast towel.” He later changed it to “All the News That’s Fit to Print”. Submit your mission statement to [email protected]. my Email Notifications are broken, my Twitter is paralyzed but mine RSS feed is fully ambulatory.

Leave a Comment