they were also doing a tremendous amount of harm, at the same time, by being in a position to lead the way to a new way of doing journalism and failing to do so.
So like I said- institutions are valuable but also incredibly complex and hard to change.
Sure. Right after college, I went into community organizing in Houston, and then New Jersey, working on voter registration drives and housing rights issues. And while I was doing that-- this was 1999 / 2000-ish-- I was learning about all these ways to get our message out that I hadn't known about before I started organizing.
Blogs, community newspapers, radical news radio stations like WBAI in New York, all these things that went beyond the "mainstream media" as we called it back then.
And so I started getting interested in *studying* the media by first acting as a *user* of the "new news media!" That's why when folks ask me, "well, you study journalism, have you ever been a journalist, I say 'not a traditional journalist, no, but back in 1999 I was doing these things that have kind of become journalism now, but certainly weren't back then!'"
For instance, in 2004 I helped arrange live coverage of the Republican National Convention protests in New York City. And we were relying on all these citizen journalist / protesters to text us information about the protests, what the issues were, etc. I was coordinating all that. And it turns out that what we were doing was a lot like the stuff Andy Carvin ended up doing with Twitter and Egypt!
Andy was doing it on a much broader scale of course. But it is interesting to see those parallels.
I think, given how much the larger journalism ecosystem has changed, it is remarkable how little places like the Philadelphia Inquirer have changed, honestly.
Not to say they haven't changed-- they have-- but not as much as you might think.
I would also say that we often look at places like the New York Times, which actually have done an incredible job adapting ... and we forget that not every paper, or even most papers, have adapted that much or that well. Very few have, actually.
So why did you choose Philadelphia and not, say, New York? What aspects of the media landscape there interested you at the time?
So the problem with New York is that it is too big, to important, and that local news in NYC is national news and even international news everywhere else.
Like, when Ed Koch died, that was national news. And that wouldn't be true for virtually any other mayor, except maybe Daley in Chicago. So I wanted to study a place that was a little more "representative" of other cities in the U.S.
although Philly is a pretty weird place, in some ways ;-)
. Hard to say if it is really representative of anything. But it is more representative than NYC.
I love the papers in Philly, and I love the journalists there. Especially the folks at the Daily News. I hope that both papers are around for a long time.
That said: I do worry that they are not long for this world, or that they are just going to fade away into increasing irrelevance. Maybe that's more likely. Not terminal bankruptcy, or anything like that, but more like a long, slow fade-out. I think that has already happened, to
One last question for you, Chris... If folks take just one thing away from the book, what would you want that to be?
First off, Davis, thanks so much to you and the Digital First team for having me! Sad I have to run, but I have to go teach the next generation of journalists about the telegraph!
So one thing to take away from the book: I hope folks get a really strong sense of how important it was for the traditional media to collaborate with the new entrants into the media ecosystem, how hard to
was to do so, and how I hope other news orgs. figure it out someday- as hard as it is.
Thanks Davis! Thanks everyone!