Journalism’s Old Paradigm: Are We Facing a Glacier or a Flood?

Posted Oct 28, 2009 @ 11:15 am by
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“If no paradigm is right,” Donella Meadows, a pioneering environmental scientist and respected systems thinker, pointed out, “you can choose whatever one will help to achieve your purpose.” The best strategy will stem from asking: “So, what? What will media do for people?” says Amy Gahran of the Poynter Institute. By strengthening the collective agreement about independent media’s ultimate aim, The Media Consortium (TMC) can help its members shift paradigms more easily, choose the most effective game changers and better weather any industry shifts to come.

While changes to the news industry advanced at a glacial pace for many years, as Clay Shirky claimed, transition often comes as quickly as the levees that broke in New Orleans. Trigger events can cause sudden floods before new a system is in place to prevent it.

News organizations are facing flash floods. Many are in sudden-death, wilderness survival mode. Laurence Gonzales, in his book Deep Survival: Who Lives, Who Dies, and Why, explained that those people who most quickly surrender to their new circumstances, take decisive action, and believe anything is possible are the ones most likely to survive. Each independent media organization must answer two questions in order to survive: “What will you be standing on when the flood reaches you?” and “How will you boldly move to higher ground?”

The insights from The Big Thaw’s participants warn that old ways of thinking can limit media organizations’ chances of survival, especially those outlets that make incremental changes. Small moves prevent organizations from choosing entirely new strategies and developing new competencies quickly enough to remain relevant. Vol. 2 outlines avenues for making bold moves that can lead independent media to higher ground.

This blog is an excerpt from The Big Thaw, a guide to the evolution of independent media, written by Tony Deifell of Q Media Labs and produced by The Media Consortium, a network of leading independent media outlets. Learn how your organization can use this report. For more information and recommendations from the study, click here.

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