Our recent Facebook post about The Oregonian’s move to cut their weekly community section inspired some raucous debate about the state of the media in America. Most of us seem to yearn for a golden age of journalism when newspaper rooms bustled with chain-smoking overcoat-clad reporters who weren’t constrained by advertising dollars or internet measurements like clicks – and who had more bandwidth (and salary) to craft in-depth original reporting.
While the recent online debate grew heated and participants grew frustrated it became increasingly clear that change causes a torrent of emotions that can become difficult to navigate. It’s no wonder either, because if you think about it too much, the future of the media can seem quite bleak. Consider for a moment that Dennis Rodman is still able to command headlines across the country for being an arrogant drunk, and pop culture icons (*sigh*) like Justin Bieber and Miley Cyrus can earn tens of millions of dollars in ad equivalency by having identity crises or drug-fueled meltdowns.
To those suffering from media inspired anxiety, worry, fear and depression – I offer – a tonic.
While on a walk last week with my dear colleague Alexis, we came upon a woman named Karin who has recently started a magazine stand, located in the new D Street Village Development on Southeast Division Street. A magazine stand! With a handmade sign that reads “The City Reader” and an enthusiasm for selling her product, Karin was refreshingly excited about her media collection, and upon further discussion, it was clear that she had personally curated her entire selection. She enthusiastically answered my questions as I fished for leads on undiscovered publications that might aid in my PR efforts. It was clear too that she was inspired by a classic era of journalism, and she was doing something about it. I ended up buying two magazines.
To me, Karin’s business is just one symbol of la resistance to corporate-controlled media in the internet age, and an inspirational serum for all ye dour, downtrodden diggers of the truth. If you keep your eyes peeled there are other green shoots sprouting from all corners of the digital media landscape. That’s one of the great things about the internet, isn’t it? Check out Medium, Quartz, Grist or eBay founder Pierre Omidyar’s new project “The Intercept” by whistleblower Glenn Greenwald. Check out Seattle’s Crosscut, or closer to home, check out OPB’s special reports, or the latest pieces by Nigel Jaquiss, Richard Read, Jeff Baker or other key figures in the local rebel movement (my words, not theirs). Our traditional media model (which had its own long list of problems) may be dying, but its death will only serve as fertilizer for the next generation of muckrakers and entrepreneurs.
So next time you’re feeling down-in-the-mouth about a local paper that outsources much of its content, or you’re driven crazy by Facebook friends who are sharing posts from so-called “trusted” media sources on topics like FEMA Death Camps, just remember that you can do something about it. Change can be a little messy sometimes, and it may take awhile to see who the winners are, but you can influence the winners pool with your dollars. Donate money to your favorites, and if you’re in need of a quick-fix palate cleanser, go buy some magazines from Karin this weekend.