Monday, February 23, 2009

The gap between young and old

I attended the "Chicago Journalism Town Hall" today at Hotel Allegro downtown.

An esteemed panel of professionals from outlets such as the Chicago Sun-Times, Chicago Tribune, Chicago Reader, Chi-Town Daily News, Huffington Post, Gaper's Block, CLTV, WTTW, and NBC were there, as well as professors and experts in digital media.

The crowd of 400+ (expected attendance about 50-100 originally according to organizer/moderator Ken Davis) included journalists, students, bloggers, publishers, advertisers, and public relations professionals. It was a great meeting of the minds to discuss the shift from traditional journalism to online and how to save local journalism.

A topic such as this, in the current economic climate, can be highly sensitive. It was. Emotions got the best of people at times, and conversation really heated up in the third and final hour of the discussion. Some people said things they later regretted and some people went really over the top.

One thing was more apparent than anything else. One thing. It was glaringly obvious.

The gap between the young and the old. The new media, Web-savvy folks and the old-school journalist folks.

This is not meant to be an insult to the professionals there I classify "old-school" and traditionalists, many of them understand the Web well enough to get by, but they simply don't "get" it. And the young people did.

Andrew Huff of Gaper's Block, Ben Goldenberg of Huffington Post, Geoff Dougherty of Chi-Town Daily News -- they all get it. They see where the industry is going. They see where the opportunities are. They've all plugged in those holes with innovative ideas which will likely be a major part of the future of this industry.

Hearing some of the "old-school" folks talk about the need to fund this, or the need to fund that, I just shook my head. No one CARES about much of the content they were talking about! Start writing with young people in mind, the future of your organizations. Start channeling your content to areas most in need, write stories that people are most interested in reading - please.

And do your homework when it comes to the opportunities that online offers. Understand there are ways to monetize the Web. There are huge opportunities out there. And micro-payments, while a good idea in theory, may not be the best way to do it. What are some alternatives? One person at the event, Kiyoshi Martinez, put up this blog afterward on ideas he has to generate revenue on the Web. Some solid ideas.

The saddest part is how tight some of the old-school journalists were clinging on to the past. They showed no interest in even having a dialogue about change. They were so wrapped up in their own ways. Attitudes like that will get the industry nowhere.

It's time to be innovative, to pull out all the stops, to try new things. Because there's no question anymore where the future lies. And that's the Web.

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