When I look over the landscape of journalism today, I see changes that are almost geological in kind—the plates are shifting, the continent grinds in motion. Familiar features are still there, but from basin to range there are strange formations, and new aspects appear. Below the surface much goes on. The ground rises where before there was nothing to build on. Old ground cracks and sinks.
The hardest problem in journalism today may be to map it, to draw borders around the practice and define what's within or beyond. Is there an audience for serious news? One of the ways we struggle is to map the space available for journalism. The imagined line between “news” and “entertainment” is another. Does the border separating journalism from other creative treatments of reality by the media complex run through counties, or through companies, or sections of the newspaper, portions of the broadcast schedule, segments in the Today Show! Probably it runs through individuals—journalists—producers of news who sway one way, then another; feel commercial pressure, resist it, make space for themselves and for journalism, then lose it, regain it here, give it up over there. Where is journalism in a company like the American newspaper giant, Gannet, which is sometimes devoted to the practice with, let us say, half a heart? Where is “journalism” in that screaming empire known as Fox? Somewhere in the mix.
Difficulties in saying who is a journalist make for unstable ground in the practice. When did former political operative Tim Russert become one, and why is Net gossip Matt Drudge not one? We may be used to questions like that. But now with the Internet the possibility of opening a solo practice in journalism has returned, and we are little used to that. Put up a website with good reporting and commentary and you may be successfully practicing journalism, even though no