Saving journalism

How to pay for journalism? Frankly, it's not a question to be solved anytime soon and anybody who does is a) likely to end up mildly rich and b) unlikely to be replicated. The way to pay, though, isn't David Leigh's suggestion of a broadband levy. I admire Leigh as a journalist but the idea seems far too naive and unworkable. Tim Worstall and Charlie Beckett have both written excellent posts picking apart Leigh's proposal.

One thing that Beckett pushes home is the fact that people do currently pay for journalism and that should be our starting point rather than trying to prop up models that are failing.

This isn't to say I'm one of those willing print (or broadcast) to fail. I still love newspapers and magazines and while I have a few iPad subscriptions I still prefer a print copy in my hands.

But times move and even an excellent publication with a devoted following like The Word can't get enough of its readers to make it a commercially viable print proposition. Former editor David Hepworth's post on its demise is equally informative on how the industry has changed completely as it is on why the magazine went under.

So you've got two different, but not mutually exclusive schools of thought - the first being that if the medium is right then people will may for journalism. And the second, that there is a thirst for information that is cutting out the traditional role of a journalist.

Perhaps, then, the industry isn't in crisis. It's just evolving. As it always has done and will continue to do. We all know the web has changed the game and that most organisations that involve journalism, even some of the more web-savvy ones, are still trying to apply a funding model for print that involved a straight top-down captive audience model onto a diversified industry of which print is only a small part. Perhaps the industry isn't dying, but the approach to it is the wrong medicine for this generation.

Or perhaps the approach is wrong simply because you can't apply a one-size-fits-all approach to big media in this day and age. Look at the web strategies for the Mail, the Guardian and the Financial Times. All previously beholden to the same model, and all now going down vastly different routes, in no small part determined by their audience.

And perhaps the model isn't anything quite what we're working towards at the moment. As Beckett (and I really urge you to read his post) notes there's still a need for curation and analysis and other traditional journalism skills, even if the skills are being applied in a different format or medium.

And indeed, as Beckett also notes, people are still paying for journalism, just in different ways. Whether this will save much-needed local journalism for a community in the short-term is unsure, but if there's an gap in the market, there'll also be an opportunity.

And the mode the journalism is delivered - be it tablet, print, online or something else - may be done in a different way to how we envisage it. Do we still hold onto a model that isn't working because its what we think this is the only way for journalism to be done? Or do we continue to look for a opportunities that take journalism into the future.

It's much like when the BBC announced Blue Peter was moving to the CBBC channel permanently. There was plenty of people commenting on how this was the death of children's television or a sad indictment of the channel's commitment to children's television. But when you looked at the figures and facts, CBBC was the best place to broadcast Blue Peter - those complaining were holding onto an idea of something they valued from a very different era, without necessarily having watched the show recently. It's an apt mirror for journalism, where people who may not have purchased a newspaper or magazine recently still have a very distinct idea of what journalism should look like.

I still believe in journalism. I still (perhaps naively) believe people will pay for it. And I still love print, which is why I wouldn't ever say "I told you so" or revel in the delight of 'old' media dying. But I also think that you can't necessarily hold onto the past forever and if this means journalism is no longer delivered in certain mediums that we're used to in order to keep the industry and move it forward, then so be it.