Friday, September 26, 2008

Jarvis agrees: Zell is not the problem

This is quite exciting.

Sometimes I feel like the lone cranky voice out here, the party pooper at the journalism party, because I refuse to blame "rapacious" businessmen or cultural superficiality for the demise of the news business but instead lay the blame at the feet of reporters themselves. But now, it turns out I'm not alone.

Respected media commentator and Internet strategist Jeff Jarvis, he of BuzzMachine (#520 on Technorati's list of the top blogs -- not too shabby, given that there's only, like, a jillion blogs out there), declared last week that "Zell is not your problem. You are."

The post was written in response to a suit filed by a group of current and former LA Times staffers against Sam Zell, accusing him of "recklessness in the takeover and management" of the paper.

The Times veterans should not be suing Zell, Jarvis declared. They should be suing themselves.

The rap sheet included the following crimes:

"When the paper was the most overwritten, under-edited consumer of wasted ink and paper in the United States of America, boring its audience with jump after jump of self-indulgent text and forcing readers to flee for TV, did you get out your pencils and start trimming and tightening? No."

"When the internet came, did you all - every one of you as responsible, smart journalists, on your own - leap to get training in audio and video? Did you immediately hatch new ways to work collaboratively with the vast public of bloggers able and willing to join in local journalism? Not that I saw."

Not to toot my own horn, but what the hey, this is exactly what I wrote about last month in "Who, in fact, is the problem?"

At the time, I quoted Newark's mayor paraphrasing MLK in saying that, "The problems of today are not the vitriolic words and the evil actions of the bad people, but the appalling silence and inaction of the good people."

My point was that, in challenging times, the average person can't sit around and point fingers. The average person has to get off their duff and be part of the solution.

And, as someone who's felt like that lone cranky voice, it's enormously exciting to hear others making this point. I genuinely believe that the only way we'll be able to find the way forward is if every single person working in this business accepts that the old days are gone, faces the reality of our new environment, and dedicates themselves to exploring new--and effective--ways of doing what has always been the so very important mission of the news business: informing our communities about what's going on in them.

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