Columbia’s Dean is a wanker.
The dean is Nick Lemann, and he seems to think that the practice of journalism can still be divorced from the business of journalism. This might be because he has never had to consider the business side, not once in his entire career. He has flitted about from post to Post, Harvard degree in hand, and essentially been treated like a star tailback. Which he’s not. He’s a writer. Like me.
Now let’s get to the facts. (The stuff above was to get your interest, one of the differences between this medium and, say, newspapers.) Basically Lemann squeezed his online operation dry, leading to two editors quitting, putting the money into his print product. He then lied about it, claiming he wasn’t doing what he was in fact doing. And to top it all off he wrote a long screed in The New Yorker (his current haunt) in which he dismissed bloggers as journalists.
It is true that not all blogs are journalists, and not all journalists
are good at blogging. Blogging is a software category, like
spreadsheeting. But in dismissing the work of unpaid journalists, in the face of ample evidence that they often get right what paid scribes get wrong, well, that’s wankery of the highest order.
Throughout this decade, paper journalism has been losing audience and
market share to online, and the online versions of the papers have
gained just a tiny fraction of their old market share. Hosts of new
competitors have sprung up, while the classifieds, auto, and job
placement ads papers used to depend on for fat profits have drifted
away. Most of the great reporting today is being done online — not in
print. Yet Lemann funds paper and defunds online, depriving his
students of valuable experience, and making his own school increasingly
What would Dean Blankenhorn do?
- Every student has a blog, from the day they walk in. And they’re expected to use it.
- Our online "paper" is continually updated with pieces from student blogs, and with links to all work relating to those pieces.
- We’re teaching online research in conjunction with footwork. The
most important teaching work today involves integrating the phone
(mobile), online reporting, and field work.
- Every student works the desk, seeking out new resources, keeping the front page lively, and pointing (loudly) to good stuff.
- The bottom line counts. The online operation needs to explore
every possible funding source, and students should be graded on both
their knowledge of the business and their ability to draw revenue.
What will we learn? Credibility is the coin of the realm, and yours is
always on the line. (Start lieing on your blog and you can hose your
career before it starts.) Journalism is a business, one that has just
begun to bloom, and if you want to work there you must be a part of it.
Editing means bringing stuff to your reader, becoming their advocate,
organizing and advocating an industry, place of lifestyle.
I don’t have Nick Lemann’s credits, but I can do his job better than he
can. I’ve been working in the future my whole career, while he’s been
working in the past.