“This will be the year when it becomes apparent that the future of news and media is entrepreneurial, not institutional.” I’ve just seen that on my Twitter feed. I wondered what it meant. It sounds like a New Labour soundbite – initially impressive until you analyse it.
I clicked the link to find out more – and found out it was a quote from Jeff Jarvis’s latest Guardian column. I tend to find myself disagreeing with much of what Jeff says – his Is Journalism Storytelling? is a particular favourite of mine. And this time is no different.
Since when have media organisations not been entrepreneurial? When exactly have journalists not had to think of how to sell their work? I’ve argued before against the idea that a “new” angle of entrepreneurialism needs to be introduced to journalism training, and I’m sticking with that view after reading Jeff’s piece. In fact, after checking back a few posts, I discovered that it’s probably Jeff’s fundamental misunderstanding of the economics of the argument that has shaped his view. He says of the entrepreneurial journalism class he teaches in the USA;
Some high proportion of students will come into class declaring that they don’t need to worry about all this business and revenue stuff because they’ll be not-for-profit. They also tend to want to do good for its own sake. I beat their altruistic, communistic instincts out of them and turn them into passionate capitalists, emphasizing that no matter where the money goes at the end of the day, they’d better have money left over – aka profit. Their enterprises and their journalism must be sustainable or they and their businesses won’t survive.
The problem here, of course, is the failure to understand the difference between the creation and the distribution of profit. Even those nasty “communistic” thinkers talked of surplus value, aka profit, and even the most committed of journalistic altruists have long understood the need for sustainable enterprise.
It may be that Jarvis uses ‘entrepreneurial’ as a kind of shorthand for ‘small-scale enterprise’ or even ‘individual’. In which case, it is interesting to note the conclusion to his piece, in which he says;
In 2010, we will see Google battle Apple for the right to connect us, not just with each other but with information about any place, any thing and anyone.
They don’t come much more small-scale than Google and Apple these days, I guess. Perhaps the news that for all the talk of change it’s still a case of one massive corporation fighting another for market share is not quite as interesting.