OPTIMISM AND JOURNALISM (in the same headline!)

By Chris Daly

I had the good fortune to attend the annual Conference on Narrative Non-Fiction, hosted at Boston University. It was a gathering of the tribe of people who do (and think about and care about) narrative non-fiction, long-form journalism, or any of the allied arts.

I was struck by the comments of Ken Auletta, the indispensable chronicler of the media business. Unlike a lot of the panelists, Auletta, a veteran New Yorker writer, said he saw reasons for optimism in the current situation. With his permission, I want to share his 14 reasons to look on the bright side:

1. e-books (which eliminate all the impediments associated with printing and distributing books — plus, no returns!)

2. (Apologies: I can’t read Auletta’s handwriting on this one, and it didn’t register as a separate item in my own notes.)

3. The Web puts a virtual library at every writer’s fingertips, greatly speeding up the pace and bringing down the cost of doing research.

4. Google books, which is bringing out-of-print books back to life.

5. Apps, which are teaching people that they should expect to pay for content.

6. Multimedia tools for story-tellers. (Auletta cited the pioneering use of video by the NYT in Art Buchwald’s obit)

7. The old media are beginning to “lean in” and engage with new tools and social media, rather than always deciding to “lean back” and feel sorry for themselves.

8. Writers have more platforms than ever before, so writers can pick the one that best fits a particular project.

9. The media have become more democratic, since readers now have a voice, which they can use for (among other things) contributing reports from places where there are no journalists.

10. Because the media are two-way, readers can help with fact-checking.

11. Because the media are two-way, readers can also help with suggesting story ideas. (“Hey, Auletta, why don’t you look into …”)

12. Blogging gives content-creators more options.

13. Links allow readers to find our work in all sorts of ways; they can stumble on something they didn’t already “subscribe” to.

14. The speed of publication allows some old media (like books) to keep up with developments in a way they never could hope to when it took 12 months to get a book into stores.

It’s quite a list, and many thanks to Ken Auletta for A), coming up with it, and B), sharing it.

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