A massive oral history of the digital disruption of legacy journalism models, released Sunday, contends that big news companies made early, repeated and well-funded attempts to adapt to the digital era but have been overwhelmed by bigger forces.
The work, titled “Riptide,” is likely to be controversial. Its authors — John Huey, Martin Nisenholtz and Paul Sagan — did the study as Shorenstein fellows at Harvard and have published it on the Nieman Journalism Lab site. They interviewed a group of 60 people, noticeably lacking in diversity.
There is very little “mea culpa” and a lot of “it made sense to us at the time” on display. While not elegiac, Huey, Nisenholtz and Sagan clearly tilt to the view — well-articulated by Washington Post Editor Marty Baron — that democracy is damaged as fewer professional journalists do what professional journalists do best.
But the authors are careful also to give attention to the viewpoint of the disruptors — including some like Business Insider’s Henry Blodget – who make the case that a distributed and aggregated system of news works fine, and the withering of traditional journalism is thus no great loss:
There’s a big argument right now about what’s going on in the news business.