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Samizdata, derived from Samizdat /n. - a system of clandestine publication of banned literature in the USSR [Russ.,= self-publishing house]

Brief thoughts on journalism

“Journalists have to get more creative and entrepreneurial. And I think that’s the problem. There’s not a less risk-taking crowd than a bunch of journalists who like to tell everyone how to run their businesses and then, like, couldn’t run a business to save their life.”

Kara Swisher

She was quoted on this Linkedin page here – so readers might have to log in first if they are members.

In fact, quite a lot of the journalists I know and have worked with in the smaller, more startup-style organisations are pretty entrepreneurial. They have to be. Even the process of cultivating new sources, raising awareness of who you are and what you cover, represents a sort of adventurous frame of mind that gels with business to some extent. Of course, there are journalists who despise business, want to just bank a paycheck, do a 9-5 fixed day and no more. And they tend to have a romantic view of “old Fleet Street” and its foreign equivalents, dreaming of the great days of 4-hour lunch breaks, expense accounts and all the rest of it. But in some respects that mindset is not as prevalent as it used to be, at least not based on my own personal experience.

Of course, such journalist/entrepreneurs are also, by and large, more resistant, one hopes, to the desire of the State to regulate the media in the manner suggested by the recent Leveson Report in the UK, which seems, I hope, to have lost some of its momentum (I live in hope).

At Bloomberg, it appears that some of the staff there have been a tad too entrepreneurial, if allegations are to be believed.

4 comments to Brief thoughts on journalism

  • Paul Marks

    Bloomberg may indeed be a nest of crooks – but there is a general philosophical point at work.

    Leftist business people (including leftist financial journalists – such as the Bloomberg crew) are always going on about how corrupt business is.

    They do not base that simply on the ideology they were taught at school and university – they base it on THEIR OWN BEHAVIOUR (which, like like the late Robert Maxwell, they justify to themselves by “projecting” it other business people – “all capitalists are corrupt, therefore I am no different…..”).

    When trading (or engaged in business of any kind) it might be wise to avoid the “capitalism is corrupt” types – as they tend to prove their theory with their own behaviour in business.

  • Antoine Clarke

    American journalists seem prone to being full of themselves, basking in the second-hand glory of Woodward/Bernstein. I don’t think they are typical of the profession worldwide.

  • Jason

    That journalists will become more entrepreneurial will, I think, become an evolutionary truism over the years to come. The old scattershot business model of charging enormous amounts of money to take out display and recruitment advertising in a few restricted media channels just doesn’t work any more (at least with print and web publishing – TV revenues seem to have split into hundreds of niche channels and I’m not familiar enough with radio to comment). Unless they figure out how to monetise their content in a different way, print and web titles will just not stay in business and I don’t think it’s much of a leap to suggest that the titles and those working for them which are left will necessarily have an entrepreneur’s intuition for how to capture a target audience and bring them close to suppliers who will pay for that. (It must be admitted this remains broadly a similar model to advertising, but I think the crucial difference will lie in the amount of detail about the individual user demanded by suppliers, as the technology develops to capture the data.)

    On a related note, there is a certain irony in the public’s display of horror at the news – carried on anachronistically funded news channels – of the US government’s Prism programme. Because it is already the case – and will only become more so in years to come – that private sector companies gathering data on their users will probably become the predominant media business model. Precisely the kind of individual profiling of users exposed by Edward Snowden will be the main way in which channels break such news about governments’ aberrations in appropriating users’ private data.

  • Jason

    Re-reading Paul Marks’s comment above, this raises an interesting point. There is undeniably a left-wing tendency among many journalists, largely afforded – at least in the recent past – by the flood of cash flowing in from the (loathed) sales department, which underwrites the Lunchtime O’Booze lifestyle and barstool-philosophy cant that comes with it. But in trying to predict the future of the business, it is difficult to see how traditional political attitudes will survive the evolution of the model.