I spoke to Alex Mawbrey, a professor at Queensborough Community College, whose radical theories of journalism are found on his blog, www.mediabrainstorm.com.
Sparrow: What is the future of journalism?
Professor Mawbrey: In a word, volunteerism. Throughout the United States are choirs and choruses, some of them first-rate. Virtually none of them pay their members. Singing in this nation is almost 100 percent volunteer. That’s what will happen to newspapers. In the future, a dental hygienist will take two days off, travel to Berkeley to interview the latest Nobel Prize winner, write an article, then return to her job. That’s when the volunteer copy editors get to work. The following day, the article appears in The New York Times. The dental hygienist is unpaid, but can tell all her friends: “Did you see my piece?” Editors will be like the managers of soup kitchens. Their job will be to coordinate the volunteers. Don’t forget, there are many people—some quite articulate—with too much time on their hands. Monks, nuns, the homeless, university professors, etc., will supply many articles for future newspapers.
Sparrow: What will happen to today’s journalists?
Professor Mawbrey: A number of them will teach non-credit courses on “How to Write a Winning Article” for the new citizen-journalists. Others will get ordinary jobs: in bowling alleys, Wal-Marts, hat shops. No doubt many of them will continue writing, but in a new style—what I call “post-journalism.” No longer “objective observers,” they will be writers-as-workers. This will lead to a rebirth of American reporting.
Sparrow: So you are ultimately optimistic?
Professor Mawbrey: Personally, I can’t wait for Cistercian monks to start writing movie reviews!