Norman Pearlstine has quite the resume. Having worked at The Wall Street Journal, Smart Money, Time Inc. and Bloomberg, the man who started out as a staff reporter was recently named chief content officer at Time Inc. In conversation with Alex S. Jones of Harvard’s Shorenstein Center on the Press, Politics & Public Policy, Pearlstine explained his main concerns for the media industry in the digital age:
“I’m not that concerned about whether media companies will be able to develop a profitable model,” he said. “It’s a question of whether those same companies will want to pursue the kind of journalism that is important to our country.”
He praised the work of ProPublica, but said that the non-profit approach, which can work for some outlets, cannot be the only approach to sustaining quality journalism.
“If you look at the number of state houses that have little or no coverage these days, if you think about how difficult it’s been for even something like Patch to get started at AOL at the local level, that’s where my concerns are.”
However, Pearlstine also thinks that there’s a future for serious, longform journalism that is enabled by new media. He cites former Washington Post writer Rick Atkinson’s four-part series on IEDs during the Iraq War: “I think it was 17,000 words over four days. And I have to believe that the number of Washington Post readers in print that got through [the entire series] has to be some subset of 1 percent,” he said.
“If you had put that together as an eBook from the Washington Post with the credibility that comes with that brand, that might be a better economic model than killing four days trying to put it into a print publication for an urban audience that did not have the staying power to get through it.”
Readers: What’s your main concern for journalism in the digital era?