Look at this photo (unfortunately a low-res screencap) for what’s currently right and wrong about journalism:
Here’s my take. The two women in the foreground are doing the work of a newsroom, reporting news and publishing it. Immediately. Online. Unfortunately, it’s the news of the potential death of their news organization.
Everyone else is focused on the man with his back to us, Hearst’s Steven Swartz who’s giving the news that the Seattle P-I is up for sale and will likely stop printing in 60 days.
If you watch the video of this announcement here, you can see The P-I’s managing editor David McCumber on the right in this picture (left in the video) standing and taking the news as best he can until Swartz says that the days of the printed P-I are over. That’s when the air comes out of him. That’s when it strikes home. That’s the worst possible news.
I don’t note this to minimize the very real angst of the talented and dedicated people in the P-I newsroom, many of whom find themselves thrust suddenly into a tough job market, but I can’t help but see a metaphor in this photo.
The only people facing forward are doing the job of journalism in the new digital reality. Everyone else is sitting vigil for a dying friend, focused on a potentially destructive nostalgia for print.
This business of journalism must change. One important clue is contained in this photo.
(Big hat-tip to Don Day of Lost Remote, who first noted this photo. He and I saw slightly different things in the photo, which is why I decided to make this post here as well.)