Friday, November 14, 2008

Someone Who's Bullish on the Future of Journalism

"I'm sitting here at LaGuardia feeling absolutely bullish about the state of journalism."

Whoever said that has to be off their rocker, no?

Well, not exactly. David Cohn is an ambitious twenty-something journalist who's been hacking his way toward the future of news future. He's currently leading spot.us, a massive experiment in seeing if crowdfunding* can be used as a model to fund journalism. Previously, he teamed up with new media thought leader (& NYU J-School prof) Jay Rosen on New Assignment.Net, another project to explore potential new models for journalism. And before that, for those looking for traditional journalism cred, he wrote for Wired, SEED, and, yes, even the New York Times.

In a post on his DigiDave blog today, Cohn wrote that the reason he's feeling so bullish is because of the massive number of experiments going on, right now, to invent the future of news. (See his post for some examples.) "The answers are out there," he wrote, "in every startup (journalism focused or otherwise), community, blog, micro-blogging, micro-financing and CMS on the web."

How does that work, you ask? What does it mean that "the answers are out there in every startup?"

This is standard innovation practice. This is how Silicon Valley works. Thousands of players dive in, all with good ideas about how to make a particular industry work. They put their ideas in play, and, out there, in the market, and over time, the ones with legs emerge. But the ones that don't ultimately succeed also contribute. Because others learn from their experiments. They learn what works and what doesn't. They get new ideas for something new to try.

"What we need right now is 10,000 journalism startups," Cohn wrote. "Of these 9,000 will fail, 1,000 will find ways to sustain themselves for a brief period of time, 98 will find mediocre success and financial security and two will come out as new media equivalents to the New York Times."

I agree. This, simply, is how we are going to find the future. And we will find it. Through experimentation and trial & error. Eventually we will find the future. It will look nothing like what we know journalism to be (which is why those startups Cohn mentions can seem so baffling to traditional journalists). But we will get there.

* DEFN: "Crowdfunding": Getting the public to pay for your project.

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