September 29, 2008

Obsession of the moment:

Matt Thompson is a youngish journalist, in the same place in his career as many others: a former reporter at the Fresno Bee and former deputy Web editor at the Minneapolis Star Tribune, this Harvard grad is currently undertaking a year-long academic fellowship at my old alma mater, the University of Missouri at Columbia. What's interesting about Thompson, though, is the contention of his academic research while at "Mizzou" this year -- he is arguing no less than that the entire subjects of "news" and "journalism" are in fact slightly different ones, simply lumped together in the past because of the limitations of paper publications, and that in our online times the entire nature of the journalism industry should be redefined, to encompass not only short punchy "breaking news" type articles (currently the staple of the medium) but also Wikipedia-style background pages on a wide range of current topics, "subject HQ" pages where readers can always go for a general roundup of all articles, and other kind of "long tail" supplements to traditional news that can only come from online publications and no printing costs. And then he's sharing all this with the public in real time as he does his research, over at a blog called

Perhaps the best thing about Thompson, though, and what made me want to mention him here at the site, is simply his writing -- he is in fact one of the more astute authors on this subject that I've ever come across, intelligent and original and with a solid groundwork of logic and history behind all of his arguments. This is what I love seeing these days, frankly, within industries like journalism that are in such turmoil, are smart futurists getting in there and applying the best things about an academic environment to the best things about entrepreneurialism, to come up with bold new plans for how that industry can best progress; I love that Thompson is not only forming a bunch of interesting theories these days on the subject, but with a specific eye towards commercial real-world application, and sharing his theories in a public forum, so that they can be both shaped by others and absorbed into others' plans. This is what's so great about being an essayist and public intellectual on the web, versus being an artist online which usually gets a lot more press, and why I encourage you to go by places like Newsless whenever you get a chance. I'm a new, big fan myself, and am sure that you will grow to be one too.

Filed by Jason Pettus at 9:56 AM, September 29, 2008. Filed under: Literature | Literature:Nonfiction | Profiles |