Jeff Jarvis on Tough Love

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Sunday, April 19, 2009

Jeff Jarvis thought it could go this way. Not that the former newspaperman-turned-blogger-turned-professor of entrepreneurial journalism finds it at all gratifying, all this bad news about the news business. And it was a particularly bad week, for those keeping score: First-quarter profits down 60 percent at Gannett, parent company of USA Today; advertising revenue down across the industry; massive cuts and reorganization at many news organizations. Jarvis, author of the new book "What Would Google Do?," spoke with Outlook's Rachel Dry about how the sky is not really falling and how if he can Twitter, so can you. Excerpts:

What do you think when you read the bad-news media stories?

I'm an optimist to a fault. I see tremendous opportunity for journalism in the Internet. That's why I'm teaching it now. I teach at the City University of New York Graduate School of Journalism, a mouthful. If we find somebody rich to give us a lot of money, then we can call it the Smith school, but until then . . .

Who has the money to endow something these days?

Tell me about it. I'm trying to raise money. But there's tremendous opportunity to improve and expand journalism in this world. At CUNY we teach every student to do audio, video, blogging, live-blogging, use Twitter. We also teach the eternal verities of journalism.

Will journalism still make money?

I'm running a project on new business models for news to try to determine just that. It will primarily come from advertising still. The future of news in a market will not be one product from one company -- I believe it will be an ecosystem of many projects. Foundation and publicly supported efforts will take up small but important aspects.

Will most people be freelancers?

You'll see a lot more people being independent. I use that term rather than freelancing, because that implies you're doing something for a company. We'll see entrepreneurs.

You have a number of outspoken critics. What's the harshest thing you've heard?

Being accused of dancing on the graves of journalists' careers. I'm not. I'm training journalists. But it's probably time for tough love. The problem is that journalism should have been reinventing itself utterly for this new media economy, and it didn't. And you know it was probably naive of me to think that it could.

You had a long newspaper and magazine career yourself. What is it like to talk with former colleagues?

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