January Carnival of Journalism – Can a Journalist be a Capitalist

4 Jan

January’s carnival of journalism comes to us from Michael Rosenblum.

In his post he asks: “Can a good journalist also be a good capitalist?” If so, how? Or why not?

The content of his full post is below. But the heart of the prompt is above.

Due Date: Friday January 27th at Noon PST.

You can publish anytime over the weekend and then we’ll do a classic Carnival Round-Up post.

How to Make Millions as a Journalist by Michael Rosenblum.

I am writing today’s blog in conjunction with the Carnival of Journalism , Dave Cohn’s ongoing journalism project.
If you feel like participating, please do.

The issue I wanted to write about for some time is Journalism and Capitalism – or “Why We Can’t Seem To Make a Living”.
The Carnival Of Journalism requires a question to which everyone responds, so my question is:
Can a good journalist also be a good capitalist?

Jeff Jarvis, much to his credit, recently launched the Center for Entreprenurial Journalism at CUNY.  And bravo Jeff!
The world of journalism needs more thinking like this.

Alas, there is an instinctive aversion to the idea of making money amongst most  journalists.

On the heels of attending one of Jarvis’ classes in Entrepreneurial Journalism, I was so impressed, I went to see Nick Lemann, the Dean of the Graduate School of Journalism at Columbia University, my alma mater, and a place I had taught for 8 years as an adjunct.

Lemann was aghast at my suggestion and practically physically recoiled.  This, alas, is all too typical for the ‘professional journalist’.  We instinctively associate making money with ‘evil’.  We like to investigate it. If someone is making a ton of money, then they must be doing something wrong.

“Follow the money” says Deep Throat to Woodward and Bernstein.

As a member of the generation that was inspired by Woodward and Bernstein, let me amend that.  “Follow the money, figure out what they are doing and how you can make even more”.

I like that one better.

Making money is no crime. In fact, it is the ulimate good. With money you can do stuff.  Without it, you are the perpetual victim and the perpetual employee, which is what most journalists are.  And that is crazy.

Listen, the Internet ‘happened’ to our industry first – the information industry.  That’s what the web was all about – the gathering and the processing and the distribution of information. That was and is our business.

So we should have been out there first, cleaning up.  We should own the web. But we don’t.  We let it get away from us because we never saw ourselves as Capitalist.  We let ourselves get pounded.

Craigslist, which pretty much eviscerated newspapers classifieds should have been developed and owned by us.
Google – all the news that fit to print – and a whole lot more – should have been developed and owned by us.
Youtube, Facebook, you name it.  We should be exploiting this mother for all she is worth.  But we don’t.

We are the perpetual groveling employees, beggaring for a few crumbs and generally seeing our jobs and incomes slashed as the web and new digital technologies roll over the old.

And why is that?
Why are we such schmucks?

It’s in our nature.  It’s in the image that we have made for ourselves.

“My job is to afflict the comfortable and comfort the afficted” says Peter Finley Dunne.

Crap!, I say.  Crap.

Who came up with this idea?

What is the crime in making money? In making lots of it?

Anyone who became a journalist could just as easily have become a lawyer.

Lawyers work for the ‘good of mankind’, but they don’t seem to attach any stigma to making a lot of money.

And they’re equally happy to defend human rights and the Constitution and help the poor and a whole lot of other stuff without feeling like they have to live in perpetual poverty for the rest of their lives.

Look at how we present ourselves to the world.  Look at the image of the typical ‘journalist’ in the movies.

Russel Crowe, journalist in “State of Play”.

Look at him.

Drunken stumble bum.
Bad clothes
Unshaven
Messy
Bad haircut
Bad car
Crap life

And he’s the hero!!!

What is the matter with us???

Is this a guy who is going to Goldman Sachs for an IPO?
Is any Venture Capital firm going to invest in him??

Not a chance.

Why do we do this to ourselves?

And how do we tolerate the crap way we are treated by our ‘employers’?
Bust your butt for The New York Times or NBC for 25 years and what do you get?
A luncheon!

Bust your butt for a NY law firm for 25 years and what do you get?
A partnership!

Do you see any journalists being offered partnerships in The New York Times Company???

We are a mess.
But we are not beyond redemption.
We can change.
We have to get our act together.

We have to embrace making money – lots and lots of money – as a good. As a goal.

We should arrange ourselves the way lawyers do, as limited partnerships.  Then some of the partners can carry on with their ‘investigative journalism’ while the others engage in more lucrative PR or Image Control and others launch web-related IPOs.

And instead of ‘working for’ the NY Times or NBC, we should simply license our work to them.  For a fee.

I read a lot about the ‘dire situation’ that journalism is facing, but to me, the only ‘dire situation’ is the way that we have chosen to arrange ourselves.

Journalists of the world, arise. You have nothing to lose.

Nothing at all, apparently.

20 Responses to “January Carnival of Journalism – Can a Journalist be a Capitalist”

  1. Denise Cheng (@dennetmint) January 5, 2012 at 3:48 pm #

    As someone who’s moving to NYC in a few weeks to take part in CUNY’s entrepreneurial journalism program, I appreciate hearing your experience, Michael! Gives me more confidence that I’ve made the right decision to spend my spring there.

    And as a fellow Jcarny, I agree that it does not have to be repugnant. It’s something no person and no organization can do without, especially if they want to scale to better serve the community. Separating business from journalism is not an option, so maybe we need to shift our view: If we embrace capital and spend time figuring out how to do it better, then the time we have to do what we naturally do well—the craft, community engagement—will be optimized.

  2. Michael Rosenblum January 12, 2012 at 9:26 am #

    Hi Denise
    Good for you.
    You cannot do better than to work with Jeff Jarvis.
    He and CUNY are on the very cutting edge of where journalism has to go to survive.

  3. Afi Scruggs (@aoscruggs) January 18, 2012 at 4:51 pm #

    I’m not ready to throw Peter Finley Dunne out yet. And I’m not convinced that making money is the ultimate good. Yes I’m entrepreneurial. I have to be because I’m a creative in addition to being a journalist. But businesses fail all the time, so we have to be aware that an entrepreneurial mindset doesn’t guarantee a fat bank account. Just look at the struggling Patch sites.

  4. Fakir Iqtidar January 24, 2012 at 5:19 pm #

    I agree. Why the hell are journalists at the lower rung of the ladder!?

  5. Steve Outing (@steveouting) January 25, 2012 at 10:40 pm #

    I believe Carnival etiquette is to report your contribution here in the comments… My few cents on Michael’s good question: http://steveouting.com/2012/01/25/journalist-capitalist/

    And watch for my question in the days ahead, since I’ll be the February Carnival of Journalism host.

  6. Jack Rosenberry January 26, 2012 at 2:47 am #

    Following Steve’s lead, here is a link to my post, also an early entrant:

    http://bit.ly/wNA23d

    or

    http://drrosenberryspage.blogspot.com/2012/01/capitalistic-journalism.html

  7. Afi Scruggs (@aoscruggs) January 27, 2012 at 8:03 pm #

    Here’s my post: “A Journalist Can Be A Capitalist, But You Might Not Ever Get Rich.

    http://www.aoscruggs.com/?p=770

  8. Donica January 30, 2012 at 8:49 am #

    Late to the party, but a small contribution: “The journalist as small business owner” –

    http://studentdev.jour.unr.edu/jeducation/2012/01/make-lots-of-money/

  9. rosenblumtv January 26, 2012 at 12:50 pm #

    Dear Jack. Thanks for your participation and your early entry! I want to address one point in your piece: I think you are confusing ‘making a lot of money’ with being a
    capitalist. They are different. O’Reilly may make a lot of money, but he is still an employee – he is still a serf (a highly paid serf) but still at the beck and call of his master. He does not own the means of production; he works for someone else. By becoming capitalists, I don’t mean raking in the bucks. I mean owning the machine. O’Reilly could do this. He could take his talents and set up his own company and license his work back to Fox and anyone else who wanted to buy it. The problem is, even at the top income levels, we don’t think this way. That’s the core of my issue: how we arrange ourselves. And that is why we will always be victims until we change our own perception of how we should interact with the world.

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