How not to reinvent media in the Digital Age

AP chief Tom Curley's recent speech referenced the Internet twice, didn't use the word blog, and offered few answers to saving journalism.

Associated Press chief Tom Curley knows journalism. He just doesn't have any idea how to save his profession from a rendezvous with irrelevance.

Or at least it's not readily apparent to this former AP employee.

During the course of a keynote speech delivered Thursday night at the annual Knight-Bagehot dinner, Curley did acknowledge that young people "don't prefer our traditional platforms and packaging."

So far, so good. Unfortunately, I was hoping he would offer more than the usual corporate bromides. Curley included just two--that's right, two! references to the Internet. And the word "blog" failed to show up anywhere in his speech. As for any consideration how to open up the conversation with readers--fuggedaboutit.

The other 2,480 words of Curley's speech were given over to a hollow meditation about what ails the news business and possible fixes. But his halfway measures failed to impress many observers.

PaidContent's Rafat Ali said Curley's speech was "emblematic of the schizophrenic state of the news media industry: hope and despair all wrapped into a nervous bundle."

Henry Blodget over at Silicon Alley Insider was even more despairing: "Before Tom's speech, we actually thought AP (if not newspapers) was in a decent position to survive the creative destruction that is destroying old media fortunes. Apparently we were wrong."

At least Curley had the courage to acknowledge that what he termed the profession's "arrogance" has done more than any portal.

So what should be done?

I'm not sure Curley really knows. He allowed that the media must better understand and embrace the new ways in which people consume content. Truth be told, however, that's hardly news in the year 2007. With the AP and the rest of the profession struggling with how to reinvent itself in the digital era, Curley seems to believe the media's revival depends upon smarter reporting and better editing. That and figuring out technical answers to stop unauthorized scraping of news stories.

Compare that prescription with a presentation Curley gave in 2004 to the Online News Association. Actually, I thought his earlier speech offered more interesting thoughts about how to deal with an uncertain future than did last evening's stem-winder.

I'm all for smarter and better, but them what brung you to the party have long disappeared. I hope Curley and his cohorts do figure it out before time runs out. But half measures aren't going to do it and constructing a bigger, wider moat will only delay the inevitable.

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About the author

Charles Cooper was an executive editor at CNET News. He has covered technology and business for more than 25 years, working at CBSNews.com, the Associated Press, Computer & Software News, Computer Shopper, PC Week, and ZDNet.

 

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