Shirky: Many news orgs must choose between 'radical restructure and outright collapse'

Clay Shirky | Steve Yelvington | CJR

In response to an essay by Dean Starkman, NYU professor Clay Shirky has reiterated his belief that newspaper organizations are being disrupted at a rate that requires radical reinvention.

Saying newspapers will provide a stable home for reporters, just as soon as we figure out how to make newspapers stable, is like saying that if we had some ham, we could have a ham sandwich, if we had some bread. We need to support the people who cover hard news, but when you see a metro daily for a town of 100,000 that employs only six such reporters (just 10% of the masthead, much less total staff), saving the entire edifice just to support that handful looks a lot harder than just finding new ways to support them directly.

Though Starkman considers this view anti-institutional, Shirky says new institutions will grow out of current experiments; they just may be "unrecognizably different," as may be the newspapers organizations that still exist in 10 years.

"No medium has ever survived the indifference of 25-year-olds," Shirky writes.

...if you believe, as I do, that many of those institutions are so mismatched to the task at hand that most of them face a choice, at best, between radical restructure and outright collapse, well, in that case, you’d probably find the smartest 25 year olds you know, and try to convince them that now would be a pretty good time to start working on Plan B.

Steve Yelvington, who is mentioned in Shirky's essay, agrees: "The monopoly era of factory-produced, one-way, institutional journalism has ended." || Related: Emily Bell: "When faced with the decline of print sales (inexorable) and the disruption of your industry, you cannot always stand back and wait to see who wins an intellectual argument." (CJR) | Mathew Ingram: Why does the future of news have to be us versus them? (GigaOM)

Read the whole essay by Clay Shirky.


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