As the holiday season approaches, you might find yourself looking for reading material to give as a gift, or curl up with on some possible days off (I like to think we get time off. Just roll with it). A good choice would be Out of Print, part textbook, part commentary, by George Brock, head of City University’s graduate school of journalism in London, as well as ex-journo for the Times and Observer.
It’s an unsentimental look at the fall of the “golden age” of newspapers as much as it is an optimistic take on the future of the news business. The book operates on the thesis that journalism is entangled with the news business
and Brock’s frank, level headed take on business models, ethics and other tenets of journalism is approachable and refreshing. The examples and attitude are current and though, as he admits in the book, “we are in a fast moving picture” and some ideas run the risk of “being overtaken by events,” it works both as running commentary and as a solid history of the the news business over the past decade. And it’s not all about user generated content, the 24 hour news cycle and dabbling in other media; as a Brit there’s also a useful analysis of the Leveson Inquiry and ‘Operation Motorman” and how credibility plays into the new world order of journalism.
“Journalism has grown and made itself useful through experimentation. Journalists must now experiment again in order to rebuild their role in a changing information system…Journalism should ask what people need to know, but it must also take account of what they want to know.”
“It makes no sense to say that ‘information wants to be free’ than it does to say ‘information wants to be expensive’… the wisest media companies treat payment as an experiment and are prepared to react to whatever it tells them.”
The four ‘core tasks’ of journalism: Verification, sense making, witness and investigation.
You can follow Brock @georgeprof, and the book is available in print and as a Kindle edition. Let me know what you think after you read it.