When Journalism was a Thing, Part Six.

I

I am eccentric, enigmatic, self-indulgent, blunt, surreal, creative, and persistent, a radical centrist, and obstinate. You either like me or you don't, and I don't care if you don't. Many people who thought they disliked me realized they misunderstood me, and I do know for many, I am an acquired taste. But I am not going to tap dance to convert the world to like me. If you don't, just don't invite me to your birthday party. I can buy my own balloons and cake, thank you very much.

I am also very quiet, sensitive, pensive, and have far too many thoughts swimming in my head at once. I know what I like, and people from all over the place can tell you with absolute certainty that I listen to the Hives, adore Ted Kord the Blue Beetle, boxing, Chicago, Sherlock Holmes, the art of Han Hoogerbrugge, and black turtlenecks. Confederacy of Dunces is my favourite book. I grew up devouring Spy magazine. I am learning to play the Theremin. I read psychology textbooks while I was still in grade school. I prefer theatre to movies unless the movie is some obscure, weird little mind-blowing number. My own art veers toward metalwork, encaustics, and Kintsugi. 

I skipped grades. I was the editor of my high school yearbook and was forced to be on Student's Council because of it. My undergraduate thesis was in psychoacoustics, and had there been no civil war in the former Yugoslavia, I would have been a jury psychologist. I have been to protests as a teenager and walked a picket line when I was a kid, making the evening news. Homeland Security scoured both my LinkedIn and Facebook pages.

I never married, and probably never will as I have my Declaration of SInglependence to consider. I don't have children, and can't see myself ever having one. I frequently change my hairstyle, and always was a fan of stage magic.

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I also did what most writers have failed to do: write scathing books on the profession, and then continued to write with no care how the profession reacted because it needed to be said.

In 2005, my first book, Don't Believe It!: How lies become news, was published. No one in journalism can honestly say they don't know why their profession collapsed. There people like me who repeatedly told them complete with facts and evidence.

But even if it were just me who said it, one look at the reference section, and someone should have paid attention.

And then done something about it.

But women were never respected in that profession. My book has been quoted in academic books and journal articles -- still, in 2018. I have had students from Ivy League schools track me down to interview me to pick my brain for various essays, presentations, and projects, but not a single one of those enterprising young minds was studying journalism, media studies, or communications.

And that is an interesting fact as it explains very clearly and plainly why journalism is no longer a thing.

II

The bellyaching from the bowels of the Place Below Hell, are maddening. The latest big boo hoo comes from the Daily Beast, in this pathetic article bemoaning the massive layoffs at the New York Daily News:

SAD DAY

The Daily News Was Superman’s Paper—Tronc Fed It Kryptonite

The owners fired half the paper's staff Monday in a savage move that not only guts the newspaper, but also drastically diminishes the reporting of New York City.

It misses the point completely: journalism could have avoided this catastrophe if it stopped being so full of itself. But this passage about fired editor in chief Jim Rich is the most telling:

Rich—who left the paper as editor in chief in October 2016 under Zuckerman, and then re-assumed the post last fall when Tronc took over—declined to comment to The Daily Beast. But his Twitter feed was bitterly revealing.

“If you hate democracy and think local governments should operate unchecked and in the dark, then today is a good day for you,” he tweeted before dawn on Monday. His Twitter profile, meanwhile, said: “Just a guy sitting at home watching journalism being choked into extinction.”

No, people who love democracy are having a good day because journalism never actually understood democracy. They couldn't for the simple reason there was no democracy in who controlled the airwaves or the ability to mass publish or broadcast. That was a rig enjoyed by that industry alone. Democracy happened, making journalism obsolete.

It didn't have to be obsolete, however. It had to seriously re-invent itself while it still had the resources, power, and public goodwill. A new game board means there is a new game with news rules and new rigs. They had to differentiate themselves from the public who now had the same tools they did.

That would take an eye for reality to pull off, but the profession thought being a journalist was some sort of eternal and static crown that could never be revoked.

They were wrong.

What is happening to journalism is democracy in action. It is equalization realized. Because journalists and journalism educators just sat on their duffs and did nothing new or different that would make them essential, the world preferred their own musings, muggings, rage pukes, and scribblings and tuned journalists out.

III

When I wrote Don't Believe It! in 2005, I thought the profession could still be saved, and despite everything, I wanted it to be saved, but the big brick wall put up in front of my face told me the whole story: there was no saving a profession that did not deserve to be saved. It was always a one-way communication: they have no trouble telling officials and citizens alike all of the things they were doing wrong in their eyes...

But when you did the same, they ignored you, and always had some snippy, arrogant reply to dismiss any criticism. 

By the time I wrote When Journalism was a Thing, I absolutely knew that (a) journalism was dead, (b) there was no resurrecting it, and (c) an alternative was needed to take its place.

An alternative that had an actual vision and a plan with a definitive system and methodology. It had to have a clear mandate and benchmarks. Journalism was always fooled by the old rigs that favoured it, and it had no idea that those rigs were not divine or natural. It still doesn't get it.

But an alternative that is built to understand the nature of shifting rigs, combats, and landscapes is built to last and weather the changes. It took me years to develop the system to do it. I agonized over every angle, digging for the subtle and muted elements that would otherwise be overlooked.

Yet it took me to also study fictional writing structures, see where they failed, and then devise an alternative structure and test it out before translating one in order to build the other, and then create a feedback loop that always took reality into account.

I did this all on my own with no outside help or budget. But I did it. Journalism, which held all of the cards, didn't do any of it. Shame on the profession for its insolence and lethargy.

I also did this taking advice from any good place that history gave me.

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That wasn't idealistic advice. That was practical and pragmatic strategy.

It's often quoted, but almost never actually heeded.

Pity.

Because it was the advice that could have saved journalism. Too bad.

And too late.

But I believe in being the Mother of Re-Invention, and you can arrive and deliver a change, and one for the better.

But you must understand why that change was needed and how others who failed to do so lost their own wars...