Why We’re Doomed (Plus a Plug)

by Alex Pareene

As some of you know, I’m the executive editor of a forthcoming digital magazine (or “website”) headed by Matt Taibbi and published by First Look Media. We have already put together a great team of writers and reporters, with a few more hires yet to come. (If you know a great story editor, story designer, or illustrator, please send them our way.)

Were I better at promotion, I would have some sort of link to share with you, where you could go to be kept abreast of what this project is and when it will launch, but for now, I guess just follow Matt and me on Twitter (or just Matt – he tweets less often, which I’ve increasingly come to see as the single best characteristic of a Twitter user) and we will eventually let everyone know what we’re building in here.

My experience helping to put together a new media organization this summer is what led me to write so much about the press this week, and before I go I’ll share a few more un-asked for thoughts on “the future of journalism.” (FYI, I am actually just auditioning to become an incredibly well-compensated “futurist” media guru consultant/speaker.)

There is, rather suddenly, a lot of fresh money in journalism (and media in general), but much of that money is going to spread the same rather predictable viewpoints, from the technocratic center-left Beltway wisdom of Vox to Bloomberg’s attempt to launch a high-profile new politics brand built around horse-race enthusiasts Mark Halperin and John Heilemann. (Bloomberg will air a daily show hosted by Mark Halperin and John Heilemann, modeled on ESPN shout-fest “Pardon the Interruption,” called “With All Due Respect,” presumably because this FX show already took the name “You’re the Worst.”)

Vox does some good work, and I’m sure Bloomberg Politics will have some good work in it as well, but the supposedly democratizing effect the Internet was supposed to have on Big Media has turned out to be a bit lame.

A few large online publishers — BuzzFeed, the Huffington Post, Vox Media — and massive corporate “legacy” media – like the sites run by ESPN – are the industry’s biggest “success stories,” and for all those players, success came in large part because they already had a lot of money to begin with. I, obviously, am part of that big money media sphere now, though First Look Media has already and will (I hope) continue to distinguish itself by hiring iconoclastic and irreverent voices like Glenn Greenwald (and my boss Matt), while also investing in actual reporting, which, as many would-be saviors of journalism tend to forget, costs quite a bit of money.

That last inescapable fact is the root of my main fear for the future of this industry: Nothing will replace statehouse reporting, because there’s no money in statehouse reporting. Unless you happen to live in the New York tri-state area or near the Beltway, there’s a good chance that hardly anyone is keeping on eye on your state legislature and governor, to say nothing of your city council, mayor, school board, and police department. And no one has come up with a plan to replace the people who used to do this. (Can we get some billionaire to fund a “Teach for America,” but for local journalism?) (I guess I could ask my billionaire.)

On that dour note, I sign off from the Dish. I’d like to thank Andrew Sullivan for letting me play at his site, even though there was always a very real possibility that I would just use this perch to make fun of him. (A friend suggested I begin my guest-blogging stint writing a series of posts strongly urging military intervention in Iraq, and then, gradually, completely reverse my position over the course of the week. I slightly regret not doing this.) And I’d especially like to thank the entire team at the Dish – Chris, Patrick, Chas, and everyone else – who do a bang-up job keeping this operation running smoothly. Please tip your servers.