Journalists As Hitmen?

Journalists As Hitmen?

Priceonomics just posted a fascinating story mulling over the future of journalism. Here's one eye opening stat from the story:

"The journalism industry seems to be in trouble. Newspaper revenue has shrunkfrom $57.4 billion in 2003 to $38.6 billion in 2012. All of their traditional sources of revenue are falling. Magazine circulation is down sharply. Publishers have laid off their staff en masse or shut down entirely. It is harder than ever to make a living as a journalist."

Wow -- that's shrinkage of over 30% in less than a decade.

But the most interesting part of the post was a thought experiment that Rohin Dhar did -- an interesting twist on the business models for journalism, which was this: Instead of paying for what's already been written, what if we paid to influence what's written next?

Or to put it another way, what if we turned Journalists into proverbial hitmen?

Pen & paper gunslingers that would pursue stories sold off to the highest bidder?

It's fascinating and scary all at the same time. And the fact that it makes me uncomfortable tells me there's definitely something interesting here.

What if they New York Times did an investigative story into a presidential candidate because the opposition paid the most money for the reporter's time and won the auction?

I love the disruption inherent in the idea while at the same time hating the influence of money that crosses a traditional barrier of journalistic integrity.

Is there a way to pull it off with a model that doesn't just degenerate into a bidding war with no journalistic morals?

I'd love to hear what you think.

I decided to give the experiment a try, and I chose to donate, as per the instructions on the blog. What I realized was that:

  • I couldn't believe only 12 people had donated (I probably wouldn't show that number)
  • Seeing that the average donation amount really influenced how much I decided to give
  • Seeing the max donation also really influenced how much I was willing to give (a bit of a gamification opportunity there)