Is the search for a sustainable business model for journalism unsustainable in and of itself? Our media system has gone through a number of fundamental shifts and changes in the last decade alone, but I think to some extent we are still just at the beginning. If that’s true, and if the media landscape will be tumultuous and uncertain for years to come, then business models will continue to be elusive and the target will always be shifting. One week it’s social networking and paywalls, the next it’s apps and tablets, the next its niche publications and side events. Most of these things aren’t bad ideas, in and of themselves, but they tend to be about the structures and systems surround journalism, not about the journalism itself. Too often, this can amount to chasing trends.
Instead of searching for sustainable business models, what if we were searching for sustainable practices. Consider the difference between searching for a new technology to make our consumer culture more green, versus changing our consumer culture. It’s time to dedicate some time and energy to thinking through how we change the culture of news itself. There is not going to be one business model, the future of news will be diverse and multifaceted, but there will be some core practices and habits that should infuse what we do. I believe these new news habits can help create a more sustainable journalism.
In her book Talking to Strangers, Danielle Allen suggests that in terms of national identity, we should replace the metaphor of “oneness” with a metaphor of “wholeness.” While “oneness” is totalizing, she writes, “the metaphor of wholeness can guide us into a conversation about how to develop habits of citizenship that can help democracy bring trustful coherence out of division without erasing or suppressing difference.” Business models suggest oneness. I believe we need to focus more on the habits and practices that can help make independent media and journalism successful in the future. Habits are hard to change, but when they do, they have profound implications. (more…)