I’d submit that social production, a centerless Plan B model for enterprise journalism, is having trouble producing great stories for the same reason that Here Comes Everybody wasn’t written by “everybody.” Important books, like great journalism require authorship, a power journalists require and deserve at least as much as FON thinkers. Can Plan B support authors? If so, great. But as Rosen asks, how exactly?
But, again, the story is the thing. However we get there, it’s all the same to me.
Somehow, I’m supposed to be against newspaper innovation, like that said to be going on at the Journal Register Company. Actually, I have no opinion on JRC’s innovations; those will be measured by the journalism they produce. You certainly won’t find me rooting against its new investigative team, for instance. But if the new I-team does produce great stories, will it be because of FON ideas or because an institution decided to form an investigative team? And if you’re wondering whether JRC is in fact an institution, a good rule of thumb is that anything owned by a secretive hedge fund run by a man who hasn’t granted an interview since the Reagan administration almost certainly is one.
The larger question looming behind this entire debate, though, is whether the FON consensus believes that the story really is the thing, that is, whether it believes in the centrality of the great story. I’m happy to have that debate, though the “anti” side would be a bold position for any journalism academic to take. Shirky, for one, has made it clear he knows the story is, if not the thing, is indeed a very big thing.
All of which makes me wonder whether I’m basically, well, right: that the Neo-Institutional Hub-and-Spoke (Hubster) model is exactly where we’re heading, in fact, if not in theory. Mathew Ingram, for instance, didn’t like my piece at all and yet, like me, cites the Guardian as a model (when you’re going good, everybody loves you). Actually, though, sorry, the Guardian is on my side: It’s a journalism institution that happens to be making the most of new tools and benefiting from the amplifying, reverberating power of networks—the “neo” in my model.
Shirky might ask, yes, but how do you finance all this fabulous bureaucracy? I say, well, you might start with a freaking pay wall. But, really, I don’t pretend to know, and I have a lot of company since, as Shirky agrees, nobody does.
Still, we at least should figure out what we’re trying to produce before we try to figure out how to finance it. Us Hubsters already know: Great stories.
As this debate rolls forward, and thinkers such as Shirky, Rosen, and others forge their separate and important path, I would hope they help the FON school clarify and articulate its own aims. What, in the end, does it want?