If the prospect of a world without newspapers makes you wonder about the future of journalism itself—or even of the republic—you're in good company. The New America Foundation hosted several prominent thinkers about the journalism crisis on June 20, 2011, to help launch the new book Will the Last Reporter Please Turn Out the Lights. Edited by Robert W. McChesney and Victor Pickard, the book features 32 groundbreaking essays outlining the nature of the crisis in journalism, its role in maintaining a healthy democracy, and its possible future.
At the event, Pickard, a New America senior research fellow with the Open Technology Initiative, and four additional contributors to the book—Free Press CEO and president Craig Aaron, Center for Social Media senior fellow Jessica Clark, Harper's Magazine columnist Thomas Frank, and George Washington University assistant professor Nikki Usher—discussed a gamut of issues facing the media industries. Pickard, for instance, argued that both history and international comparisons offered vital lessons about the crisis and potential paths forward; Clark and Usher, meanwhile, saw the dramatic changes as offering new opportunities—and new challenges—for more experimental, less centralized forms of both traditional and local journalism. Frank adopted the bleakest view, lamenting the “hamsterization” of content created by low-paying, search-engine-obsessed “content mills,” while Aaron took the opposite tack, saying that international precedent and public sentiment supported a dramatically increased level of public funding for U.S. media.