Journalism and media are undergoing a massive transformation. Many inside are feeling the pain, not the least of which are the CBC’s 800 employees about to get the axe. Clay Shirky recently wrote an important piece about “thinking the unthinkable” in newspapers, highly recommended reading. I took note of this in his concluding paragraph:
For the next few decades, journalism will be made up of overlapping special cases. Many of these models will rely on amateurs as researchers and writers. Many of these models will rely on sponsorship or grants or endowments instead of revenues. Many of these models will rely on excitable 14 year olds distributing the results. Many of these models will fail. No one experiment is going to replace what we are now losing with the demise of news on paper, but over time, the collection of new experiments that do work might give us the journalism we need.
My work with TVO’s The Agenda with Steve Paikin has been fascinating and rewarding in this context of massive change in the media business model and questions about the future of journalism as craft and practice. I think that what is important during this transformation is to unpack, unbundle and reconfigure the elements that we think of when we think about “broadcaster” or “newspaper” and reimagine how they can be reconfigured to deliver more value to more people. Value that people want to pay for.
The Agenda: on the Road project is an interesting experiment along the lines of what Shirky describes above. What began as a way to bring TVO’s flagship current affairs program into local communities has developed into an ongoing experiment in open source journalism and community engagement.