Grist for the Mill


Using SXSWi as an occasion to ponder the future of journalism has been fruitful so far.

Larry Lessig did not disappoint. He really had two themes. He said that the first problem is separating congressional job retention form money. “That’s bnot the only problem. That’s not the most important problem. But is is the first problem.”

The odd thing is that while he made a compelling case for solutions to that problem being logically precedent (in the USA, what about elsewhere?) to all the other ones, it seems to me he ALSO made a case for a different logically precedent problem.

As Dylan Otto Krider quotes Amanda Gefter, “It is crucial to the public’s
intellectual health to know when science really is science”. And there is no shortcut. Lessig showed a very disturbing vidoe of RFK Jr, siding with the vaccination paranoids, calling real research “tobacco science”. There really is no shortcut to knowing which science is the real science, and it is completely necessary.

The big picture, of course, is this: if you don’t trust your government, your industry, your press or your scientists, you aren’t going to come up with very clever solutions to your problems, are you?

Anyway, the relation between science and journalism in America in the next few years may be a linchpin for the future of the whole world. With all due respect to the people whose lives are being disrupted, I think it’s a good thing that science journalism has to be reinvented under the circumstances; what this means for the rest of journalism doesn’t concern me.

I’m starting to get some business ideas, but much as I’d love to babble about them here it’s probably best to be a little circumspect.

Meanwhile, a lot of fascinating stuff to think about.

This one from Craig Shirky has been causing a splash in journalism circles this week: “Society doesn’t need newspapers. What we need is journalism.”

Here’s Tim O’Reilly’s amen.

Similarly, a recent article in The New Republic by Yochai Benkler: “The newspaper’s decline does not portend anything resembling the end of democracy.”

There there’s Steven Johnson’s talk, the last few seconds of which I caught. A rough model for the new journalism business is sketched out at the end.

And here’s Seth Godin on keeping existing businesses going.

Remember, science isn’t the only topic that is being mishandled, though. Are the existing newspapers institutions we can afford to have around anymore?

(Picture: A guy wearing Google Austin shirt at SXSW)