Steven Johnson on why we should be optimistic about the future of news

Steven Johnson has posted a piece entitled Old Growth Media and the Future of News on his blog.

Johnson’s fine essay – really a speech he gave to South by Southwest Interactive (another festival that has grown by aggregating all sorts of different content) – tells us we should look to the most developed online ecosystems for the future of news:

The first Presidential election that I followed in an obsessive way was the 1992 election that Clinton won. I was as compulsive a news junkie about that campaign as I was about the Mac in college: every day the Times would have a handful of stories about the campaign stops or debates or latest polls. Every night I would dutifully tune into Crossfire to hear what the punditocracy had to say about the day’s events. I read Newsweek and Time and the New Republic, and scoured the New Yorker for its occasional political pieces. When the debates aired, I’d watch religiously and stay up late soaking in the commentary from the assembled experts.

That was hardly a desert, to be sure. But compare it to the information channels that were available to me following the 2008 election. Everything I relied on in 1992 was still around of course – except for the late, lamented Crossfire – but it was now part of a vast new forest of news, data, opinion, satire – and perhaps most importantly, direct experience. Sites like Talking Points Memo and Politico did extensive direct reporting. Daily Kos provided in-depth surveys and field reports on state races that the Times would never have had the ink to cover. Individual bloggers like Andrew Sullivan responded to each twist in the news cycle; HuffPo culled the most provocative opinion pieces from the rest of the blogosphere. Nate Silver at fivethirtyeight.com did meta-analysis of polling that blew away anything William Schneider dreamed of doing on CNN in 1992. 

It’s well worth a full read right through.

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