The young found media types I spoke with tend to focus more on invention than destruction. They were, for the most part, unflaggingly upbeat. Jessica Valenti, for instance, the twenty-nine-year-old founder and editor in chief of the popular feminist blog Feministing, which aggregates news items ranging from feminist responses to the presidential campaign to condom manufacturers’ responses to a new study of young women and STDs. The news hits are all interspersed with tart, partisan, intelligent, and sometimes raw commentary and opinion. Whatever Feministing is—blog, think tank, digest, “women’s” pages, feminist magazine—it’s a fine example of the new media as an improvement over the old. Unlike the “Hers” sections of yore—women’s magazines, or even Ms. Magazine—Feministing is not shaped by the fear of being offensive or “unrelatable” for “the average female reader.” In this way, like some other feminist blogs, it is head and shoulders above almost any writing on women’s issues in mainstream media. “I don’t see a lot of nostalgia from young feminists for the time when things were a lot worse,” said Valenti, who is tall with black Veronica bangs, and speaks a decibel or two louder than you do. “I studied journalism a bit but I didn’t find my voice until I had a completely open forum in the blogs.”
Like Valenti, my younger journalist friends and colleagues imagine a kaleidoscopic future where the hoarier codes of journalism are put to rest: goodbye inverted pyramid, hello a nearly reckless immediacy; goodbye measured commentary, hello pungent or radical or vulgar commentary. Yet beyond style, the new reality is that there is no clear, long-term career plan for Found Media-ites—or even for most of the rest of us. We’re in the sort of moment in history that some people will say they were glad to witness, but only twenty years hence.
Found Media-ite David Cohn, twenty-six, started on the traditional path when he attended Columbia’s journalism school. He began to see himself as a journalistic entrepreneur rather than a writer, however. Technology, Cohn said, is about organizing information. “Telling a story is not enough anymore,” he says. While journalists have always organized information, what Cohn and others like him mean by this is a different way of thinking about what we do—rubbing off some of our collective grandiosity and seeing ourselves more simply, as workers who gather and filter data.