Function over form. Check please.

There has been much talk in the recent years about what viable form journalism will take in the 21st century.

There’s been even more hand-wringing over what business model journalism will employ to stay relevant and profitable.

Time CEO Ann Moore addressed the issue in a March 2009 article in the Daily Telegraph.

“Who started this rumor that all information should be free, and why didn’t we challenge this when it first came out? Good information costs money.”

Samir Husni, director of the Magazine Innovation Center at Ole Miss, believes journalism has to find a way to counteract the “welfare information society.”

Questions are bountiful and we have problems aplenty.  Answers and solutions are meager on the best days.

Patch.com touts ultra-local content in selected locations, and spot.us heralds a journalist-for-hire commission model similar to sculptors and painters of ye olden days.

I hate to complain without having a valid alternative, but I don’t see these two finding success in the long term.  Their role will be important as a type of archaeological strata; the new models will build on the ruins of the past.

David Nordfors provides the best argument I have come across to date.

“Using fossil fuel to deliver yesterday’s news printed on dead trees is not a sustainable prospect.”  Nordfors instead advocates for the separation of journalism and the media.

“The production of narrative is not bundled with the provision of media. They go partying together, but they have stopped going steady.”

Web publishing has eliminated the requisite of journalism that has prevailed until recently: a journalist is no longer defined by his/her connection to an organization that controls a medium, he writes.

I don’t have any vast, sweeping business model substitutions to offer the journalism industry (yet).  The words of a former marketing professor come to mind: a problem well-defined is a problem half solved.

Journalism academics and industry insiders must stop focusing on the merits of paywalls versus micro-payments.  Brainstorms need to focus on saving the function of journalism, not the form.

Rebooting journalism starts with a clear definition of the problem and the realization that the production of content can be butcher-block chopped from the distribution of that content.

My cleaver is around here somewhere…

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