Spinning off a speech by AFL-CIO President Richard Trumpka at Harvard about why working people are angry, Ezra Klein makes this point comparing the reaction to job losses in manufacturing to job losses in journalism:
Consider the way elites have treated the decline of journalism jobs and the decline of manufacturing jobs. Both sectors are fundamentally suffering from the same thing: A technological revolution that has made the large, well-paid workforces of yesteryear into a competitive disadvantage in the modern economy. But where the decline of manufacturing was greeted with sanguine talk about "retraining," the decline of journalism has been greeted with something akin to grief.
Grief from whom? Not from many publishing journalists.
Much ink spilled over the tumultuous growing pains (or "decline") of journalism has been marked with the same breathless, excitable, often crude and always knowing style with which writers tackle just about anything in violent transformation. Look at the Clay Shirkys and Jeff Jarvis', Slate's Jack Shafer, or the New York Times' David Carr, or anything or Gawker. It certainly seems like many journalists come to praise the new, rather than bury the dead trees.
Newspapers are dying! Newspapers are dying! If this is grief, it is a bizarre way to grieve. Sometimes its exuberance borders on celebration. Journalism's breathless coverage of its own demise is one part habit (journalists like to run themselves out of breath), one part natural schadenfreude, and one part whatever psychological term is appropriate for that safe, yet thrilled feeling one gets when watching a violent thunderstorm from inside a safe house.
But it also comes from a deeper belief that the transformation within journalism -- like the transformation in manufacturing -- has the potential to make the industry better, smarter, faster, more efficient. It's not just the new media gurus who think there is value in simple aggregation, or complex interactive graphs, or blogging public policy twenty times a day (Harold Pollack called the health care reform story "the best-covered news story, ever.") There are Web sites that exist primarily to chronicle and lead the transformation because they find it interesting and important. Executives at newspaper and magazines companies consistently hail the challenges of new media as unprecedented opportunities to provide richer stories to the widest audience in history (the ones not named Rupert Murdoch, anyway).
Klein is right that creative destruction is violent. People can get angry, and sometimes they should. But it is not self-evident that journalists are cheering creative destruction in every industry except their own.
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