I find that I'm living in two worlds - inhabiting a sort of bi-polar media-verse in which some of my information sources bombard me with an unrelenting firehose of terrible news.
You've read the stories and seen the reports. Stocks - Down. Jobs - Down. Consumer Confidence - Down. Faith in government - uncertain.
Ok, so that's one view.
But then, in the fast emerging world of web media, ecommerce, and content entrepreneurs - there's a very different set of memes. Businesses that are growing faster than their projections, entrepreneurs who are finding customers willing to embrace and even evangelize new paradigms.
Yes, things are changing. And yes, there are broken old models that employ hundreds of thousands of real people with real rent to pay and real kids to feed. The "re-boot" as my friend Jeff Jarvis calls it, is happening in a way that impacts every corner of our society.
But why does it seem that the emergence of new paradigms, businesses where the US could once again lead and dominate in the world market, end up on the feature pages of national magazines rather than on the front cover?
It is - I'm afraid - because journalists are human. And humans, as much as we may try and be objective and impartial, can't really help but bring their own personal fears and trepidation to this fast emerging new world. They look in the mirror and ask themselves, does the future include them?
So, here's a meme that I'd propose to writers in search of a 'good news' or 'light at the end of the tunnel' story line.
America has always been a country of inventors, innovators, dreamers, and builders.
We didn't name the Industrial Age, it just happened.
Today, we're in the Digital Age. No doubt. Physical is being replaced by digital at a staggering pace.
Consider this list:
Now this isn't all simple of course. As was mentioned numerous times at a daylong roundtable conference at the Yale Law School I participated in recently, trading current media dollars for Internet media dimes has the potential to have a dire impact on the current media companies that are central to our current information ecosystem. And yet, it's hard to argue that building a information-based society that gives individuals access to view, participate in, and publish to a collective open-architecture platform is a good thing. It's just that it challenges the economics of things we are fond of, and arguably things that crowd sourcing can't replace.
Which brings me back to media.
Music isn't dying. The delivery system that was owned by record labels and that relied on scarcity of resources and expensive production is being replaced by low cost creation and distribution. But just look on the street, or on the subway, or anywhere and you'll see music is being listened to more, not less.
So, journalists have, for a long time, known that they're hardly going to be in a secure field. These are not cradle to grave jobs. You're always doing four jobs, writing a book, writing for some magazines, teaching a class, etc. Journalists are, in their DNA, entrepreneurs.
And while the institutions that currently house them may be wobbly, it's time for a bit of confidence and leadership and enthusiasm among those of use whose job it is to give readers and viewers a road map that includes both the current problems and the emerging opportunities. If etail eclipses retail, where are those opportunities going to show up? If factory jobs continue to decline, but cottage creation and distribution continues to grow thanks to sites like etsy, how can unemployed turn their job hunts into participation in emerging and increasingly successful home-based businesses?
The challenge for all of us is that the changes we're now experiencing have been on the horizon for long enough that we should have made some provisions for all this. From the moment that the web arrived, print was going to be under pressure to evolve. From the moment that TiVo was born, broadcast television was a model ripe for change.
So, for those of you who aren't sure where to start - the answer is easy. Take what you do, what you love, what you know, and invent a digital version. And, take a look at the check list of tools and solutions that are already 'mainstream' and make sure you've got at least a rudimentary knowledge of what they are and how they work.
The good news is, if you've got a computer and an internet connection (you're reading this, right?) you can use them all - today. The bad news is that the evolution of media is now in fast forward, and if you don't engage and embrace what's happening, you could find yourself unable to connect your readers or your career with the future.
A JOURNALISTS "TOOL-CHEST" CHECK LIST: