To see [opportunities] clearly – to understand exactly what will rise from journalism’s ashes – we have to consider carefully what we mean by the word journalism.
Interestingly, journalism stems from a word that we don’t commonly use in English to refer to news or the actual media through which news is delivered. It’s not newspaperism, it’s not broadcastism, it’s not newsmagazineism. This is not merely a cheeky observation. Because buried in the word journalism is this core concept: modern journalism should be format agnostic. While the word’s root – journal – does convey a physical object, the modern use of the word does not require faith in or a commitment to any specific format…
…In English we actually took pains to include the medium, the paper itself, in the word, tying us dangerously close to a concept of the medium that trapped the news — and the revenue model that supported it — in its physical form. In German, their choice of the word Zeitung for newspaper was much more fortuitous. Literally, the word means times, as if every newspaper in the German language could claim to be the paper of record for its community! This allows German journalists to understand instinctively that a newspaper is supposed to be timely as well as a medium for connecting to the times in which we live. In Spanish, whoever chose the word periódico for the newspaper was similarly focused on a benefit of the medium – it was regular or periodic.
Those of us who came up with English are tied to the idea that a newspaper has to honor its roots in wood pulp. This is a ridiculous notion and is the first major casualty of digital disruption in the news business. The trees can now breathe a sigh of relief.
Read through for James’ thoughts on the forms and formats journalism should take next, and how the concrete industry actually provides useful examples.