John McQuaid wrote in a piece for Forbes, “Dangers Lurking for the Future of News,” that he has “great sympathy” for the core of Starkman’s argument that “journalism institutions and professionalism matter, and should be preserved if journalism is to have an impact on society.” But he objects to the piece’s “conception of accountability journalism,” which he writes “seems frozen in time.”

And as technology and connectedness increase, simply preserving journalism institutions and their values, or even creating new institutions to do long-form investigations, isn’t going to be enough. When John Paton says the market value of much journalism is “about zero,” he’s simply stating a fact: that I can call up several gigabytes of reporting on my smartphone in an instant.

But what about responses from the people specifically singled out in Starkman’s piece? So far, there hasn’t been much. John Paton had the most substantial response so far, written in the comments section of Starkman’s piece:

The argument is not particularly new. It goes something like - ok, you have a new biz model but how does the quality of the journalism stack up? The argument is coupled with the usual broadsides aimed at pro vs am journalism and that those who argue for the new biz models never understood journalism or journalists.

Paton goes on to list the many positions he has held throughout his 35 year career in newsrooms, stating:

Now, you might have learned some or all of the above, weighed it and included it or discarded it. But to do that you would have had to interview me before you questioned either my business sense or commitment to journalism.

Jeff Jarvis retweeted some of the blog posts I mention above. Clay Shirky and Jay Rosen have tweeted links to Starkman’s piece, Emily Bell’s response, and others. The only comment Rosen seems to have made is on Twitter shortly after the piece was published where he tweeted: “I have no idea what the future of news will be. Far as I know, I have never made a prediction about it. If you know different, post a link.” Dan Gillmor, who is quoted in the piece tweeted: “as often happens, it suggests that one quote covers everything I believe. the piece is provocative and interesting nonetheless” followed up by “I have a lot of respect for Dean Starkman’s work in general…”

Putting aside some of the more extensive rebuttals, much of the Twitter chatter was quite positive: Oliver Burkeman, a writer for the Guardian, called it a “tremendously important/insightful article”; Nick Confessore, a political reporter for the New York Times wrote that Starkman’s piece was a “wise, withering, important CJR essay”; Carl V. Lewis, a student at Columbia’s Graduate School of Journalism wrote, “No matter where you fall in the great media debate, @deanstarkman’s piece in @CJR captures the anxiety of our age.”

We hope the hike through the future-of-news forest will continue.


Alysia Santo is a former assistant editor at CJR.