Roughly two weeks ago, FreePress, a nonprofit group that seeks to “reform media,” held a “Save the News” conference in Denver on the future of journalism. A lot of local journalists and citizens attended. The discussion was wide ranging and remarkably optimistic. FreePress asked participants to think of ways public policy could be shaped to bolster journalism, given that existing policies and business models increasingly fail.
One of the panelists was David Sirota, local radio-host, journalist and book author. At one point, Sirota painted one of his visions of a potential future of news media.
Online journalism would follow the onrushing twists and turns of the news cycle, producing lightning multimedia product on each new development. That’s what the internet is good at and that’s how we read it, he suggested.
Long-form investigative pieces, though, would enter the news stream as books. Journalists would write books on topics that were too meaty with research or reliant on source-building and so on for the web– at least the first-round news web. Once the books came out, web writers and producers would variously excerpt them and move the information out into the link universe and into the news cycle.
Sirota noted that this scenario was already playing out. He pointed to many of the books published on the Iraq war and the politics that led to it.
Some of us in the seats then murmured to one another that this was exactly the problem with this vision. Books are too many pages and the publishing lead time way too long. Where were the journalists in the run up to the war? The books came out an invasion and hundreds of thousands of lives too late. We still want regular daily-weekly investigations published mostly as events are happening. We want websites that post investigative stories as the issues they relate to unfold.
But now we have news of Sarah Palin’s book– a word blitz, four months board room to book shelf. If she could put out her next book in four weeks, she may turn out to be the maverick she claims she is and find a permanent job in the media and a chair at a journalism department at one of the country’s universities. She could do it. Because, you know, a good point guard, she keeps her head up, calls audibles, works for the team, et cetera!