Mar 20, 2009

Connie Schultz: 'The business model is broken. You are not broken.'

Connie Schultz is sick of reading the bad news on Romenesko, which she called "Reverend James' House of Perpetual Pain..."

"How many of you are tired of hearing about your own demise?" The Plain Dealer Pulitzer Prize-winning columnist
asked the audience, and then videotaped the meek cheering and applause to "post on Romenesko."

The death of journalism: " isn't it fun, isn't it hilarious?" Not so much, according to Schultz.

"The young ones in this room, you're going to be fine," she said. Try to be excited about the possibilities, she advised. "We don't know what's up ahead. That means anything is possible."

But Schultz's emphasis was on providing salve to the mid-career journalists who filled the audience, about a dozen of whom raised their hands when she asked if anyone had lost their job in the past few months.

"You have nothing to apologize for," she said. "I am so tired of hearing journalists with all this handwringing try to figure out what they did wrong. We have more readers than we've ever had in this industry. The business model is broken. You are not broken."

[Corrections appended]

Schultz presented her audience with a litany of affirmations: "Y ou have never been wiser, you have never been kinder, you have never been more patient, you have never been more curious about the wonders and tragedies of this world...You have never asked better questions in your career than you're asking now."

Narrative journalism will always be necessary, Schultz said, because it reminds readers "that they're not alone in their experiences."

Journalists ask the questions that other people are afraid to ask each other--but that they desperately want to know, Schultz said.

"People are always going to want to feel less lonely, they're always going to want to feel more connected, and that's why we do what we do."

Note: Embarrassing that Connie Schultz expressed so much doubt about bloggers yesterday, because I didn't do her justice in this post. In my haste, I misspelled her name--leaving out the 'c' twice--and garbled the words of one of her main quotes. Ms. Schultz also noted that she thought it was inaccurate to say that she was "sick of" reading Romenesko, rather than "sick of reading all the bad news on his site." Fair enough. She also said she thought the cheering and applause following her question,
"How many of you are tired of hearing about your own demise?"was "spirited" rather than "meek." I'm going to stand by this one, although it's probably more a question of context. My cutoff for 'spirited' involves whooping and jumping up and down, which is probably not a response one can expect from a ballroom full of journalists at the Sheraton Hotel.

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