Jeff Jarvis, the guy with the top spot in my RSS reader, has grown tired of ‘curmudgeons’ (bad-tempered people with stubborn notions) – they’re just slowing him down in his quest for the future of journalism:
[O]ne of them issued the usual yes-buts, such as, “Well, have you looked at the home page of YouTube, huh?” I said he was wasting my time[.]
Jay Rosen responds (‘You have to persist’), to which Jarvis replies:
I suppose what you’re saying is that we should — we even have a duty to — grab their hands off the wheel and save the boat. What I’m saying is that I’m not at all sure that is worth the time and effort (and frustration) anymore.
Is that true? For Jeff Jarvis, it very well may be. I mean that without a hint of sarcasm: he’s at the steering wheel of the train to the future of journalism, and guys like that shouldn’t be slowed down by passengers who are still unsure of which train to catch – or where the train station is. Or why they should go some place else, or what a train is – sorry, you get the point.
But for the rest of us: there are a lot of people out there who may seem curmudgeonly, or who happen to hang out with curmudgeons more than is good for them. Jeff Jarvis has had his fair share of people reciting Andrew Keen arguments (to the extent that he ‘s tempted by the idea of burning Keen’s book, The Cult of the Amateur), but I have to give Keen credit for exposing a wider audience to the discussion about the promise of online media – even though the guy is only half half right: half the time half right, half the time plain wrong.
The online revolution is about change. Most people don’t like change, because – well, because it’s different. They’re uncertain, stubborn and sometimes a bit stupid – all perfectly natural behaviour, I’d say. Which results in endless discussions, conferences and presentations where people like Jeff Jarvis are confronted by ‘curmudgeons’ throwing tired clichés at him.
But like Warren Harrison says, curmudgeons aren’t born that way. They are a natural byproduct of change. They need people who talk to them. Sure, some are beyond saving and should be ignored, fired, whatever. But should we ignore someone like Andrew Keen, becasue he apparently ‘doesn’t get it’? Should we abandon everyone who ‘doesn’t get’ the fact that the ship is sinking?
Some people should, so they can move ahead and look for new land. Me, I’ll go and convince some more people and point at the rising waters – and I’ll take on any curmudgeon who’ll cross my path, any day of the week.
Update: don’t miss Jay Rosen’s insightful comment:
The curmudgeon type is not only a product of that culture but deeply expressive of it. If you believe that meeting the challenge of new media means for serious journalists a new culture surrounding the work–expressive but of different ideas and possibilities– then the curmudgeon type is a good place to start simply because it reflects so much of the old. There’s a lot of distilled pressthink in it.