ASU’s Tim McGuire on the
Future of Journalism
In true journalism style Tim McGuire, Frank Russell Chair for the business of journalism at Arizona State’s Walter Cronkite School of Journalism, wrote an essay about the future of journalism and media. McGuire didn’t write just any essay though; he wrote a ‘This I Believe‘ essay modeled off of the 5-minute CBS Radio Network program hosted by Edward R. Murrow from 1951 to 1955.
Originally intended to be a way of gathering his thoughts for his next book, McGuire’s essay provides insight into what students and professionals alike face today’s and tomorrow’s fast-paced, competitive, and dynamic journalism world.
McGuire begins by describing journalism’s predicament as a Schumpeterian moment in which “a lot of things we know and love are going to be destroyed, but a lot of wonderful new things will be created.” He continues on to say that this pivotal time in the industry will divide those who are meant for this field from those who are not. “If a student looks at our current news ecosystem and sees promise, excitement and energizing challenge then the media world is for them. If they look at that same ecosystem and rue the loss of what we had and see only doom approaching, that person needs to exit the media world quickly.”
One of the biggest problems with today’s media is that they act in ways consistent with methods pre-digital age. They continue to make decisions as if they (and not their consumers) are in control. Gone are the days when editors and producers decided when media consumers could read and watch the news. Gone are the days when holding a press pass was the only way to access information. The problem is that many journalists are trying to “desperately cling to the past.” They need to come to terms with the fact that they are not nearly as good as they need to be. Producing the same old stories as the last few decades with the same old angles will no longer cut it.
Although much of the essay points out things none of us want to hear, there is still hope. I can’t begin to count the number of times Dr. Richard Campbell of our own journalism department has said, “Journalism is NOT dying. It’s just changing.”
McGuire feels the same way: “Journalism is not dead. Print is not dead. Advertising is not dead. Absolute proclamations that they are dead come from people who can’t sort lofty visions from evolution… Some polls indicate many Americans might be happier of the press dried up and blew into the prairie, but I truly believe that journalism may be like trash collection. It gets little respect on a day-to-day basis but if the trash sits in my garage for three weeks during a strike my attachment to trash collectors increases dramatically.”
(Not that we’re actual trash, of course!)
What it comes down to is that we MUST begin to think differently. McGuire says we must begin to think and act more like a startup and less like “plodding behemoths.”
McGuire emphasizes the necessity of creativity, innovation, and reinvention for the future of our profession. Like McGuire, “I believe the future of journalism is good because I believe the tools of our age give us more opportunity than destruction.”