Jarvis and journalism, damnit

I’ve recently started following Jeff Jarvis, both on Twitter and on his blog, buzzmachine.com. He’s a journalism professor and entrepreneurial journalist, and is quickly becoming one of my favorite critics of today’s institutional journalism.

In a post published on his blog Saturday, Jarvis discussed some examples that challenge the traditional definition of journalism created by the institutions that produce and define it (like our beloved Missouri School of Journalism). Jarvis argues that what we think we know about the media and it’s “rules” may not be true at all, and asks “So what is journalism, damnit?”

I’m not sure I can answer that, and Jarvis admits he doesn’t have a definition either—he says:

“But I think we need to question — not reject, but reconsider — every assumption: what journalism is, who does it, how they add value, how they build and maintain trust, their business models. I am coming to wonder whether we should even reconsider the word journalism, as it carries more baggage than a Dreamliner.”

So if a well-respected, extremely successful journalist (because he is by nearly all definitions but a journalist) is unable to define journalism after a lifetime of experience and having a hand in shaping the media as we know it today—what does that mean for those of us in J-School now? Is real journalism tanking the way many people say it is?

I would argue that this is the most exciting time to be involved in journalism, and that the future of the industry is really up for grabs. But, frankly, I look around at the faces in my classes here at Mizzou and I’m confident the future is in good hands.

At the Columbia Missourian, we’re trying things to advance community journalism in ways many people would never consider. At the Reynolds Journalism Institute, fellows are researching ways we can be better information stewards for the community. And as an Internet generation, my classmates and I are already better equipped to undertake the digital media revolution that’s so stumped traditional news media today.

When all is said and done, I hope I too can say I made valuable and permanent contributions to my craft and to the future of journalism.

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