AM: It will be changed immeasurably from what we’re accustomed to. The traditional institutions supporting professional journalism—many, many of those will either be extinct or transformed beyond recognition from those we know today. Many new sources and types of information will emerge and much of this information will be generated by individuals as opposed to people within organizations. Much of it will be unvetted, sort of the mystery meat of information, and there will be this incredible burden on consumers of news information to figure out what to believe, what’s the truth and who said so. It’s going to be awful.

But I think that the reaction to this info Tower of Babel, the reaction will be the rise of people who become information sherpas, who aren’t necessarily doing much original reporting and writing but who help people sort fact from fiction and slant from reality. There probably will be enormous opportunities in those areas both for humans as for algorithms that can do that. Today we have these really, really crude proxies like Digg.

If you accept that we are in the soup, then this is positively the best of times to be a journalist.
The big media companies have a profound and distinct unfair advantage as we enter this age of change. And yet they keep turning their advantages into disadvantages. Any newspaper has more reporters, more feet on the street than anybody else in town. They have more advertising sales people. They have all this power and they have brands to die for. And yet, the industry as a whole has done almost nothing right about taking advantages of its strengths, the ubiquity, ability to put out this unique product on people’s doorsteps, and the original sin of giving away the content for free.

And I’ll tell you something, there have been (thousands of) people in the newspaper industry who have lost their jobs in the last twelve months, there have been zero newspaper CEO’s who have lost their jobs in the last twelve months.

Ryan Chittum is a former Wall Street Journal reporter, and deputy editor of The Audit, CJR's business section. If you see notable business journalism, give him a heads-up at rc2538@columbia.edu.