That’s a quote from the popular Atlantic Media blogger Andrew Sullivan.

And that was the point that Jeff Jarvis was using to argue against the old media assumptions, today at the SAJA as he was the key note speaker kicking off the convention.

From a macro perspective, journalists are only a small part of a larger conversation – great. We’re no longer the ones in control.

Then why is there still such an emphasis on bylines? If the control aspect is no longer about the individual story we’re putting out, but rather the conversation we’re creating with it, then the measure of a journalist’s worth should be the management of the knowledge he/she produces. Many of the stories that appear on the front page of the print NYT aren’t the stories that get trafficked – that are part of the link economy that Jeff Jarvis argues is the structure within which media currently operates.

Unfortunately, those priorities haven’t translated to the hiring process. I was told today that clips are my currency – but that still implies that my worth is determined by news editors rather than the community of readers I’m serving. So my worth of a journalist is still based on those assumptions of old media – but isn’t that what we’re trying to get rid of?

The problem is that news media organizations need a restructuring of the top-down hierarchy, from editor in chief to the…(interns?) reporters. If the goal, as it should be according to the current media theory, is to reach out to the digital age audience that’s collaboratively-based, then I think the internal structure needs to reflect that. To be a good journalist requires the ability to package a good story. Right now, that responsibility is outsourced to “website producers” and journalists are still only measured by the product they deliver to their editors.

That might explain why the only recruiters at SAJA yesterday from were from the wires – AP, Reuters, Bloomberg, and Dow Jones. These media groups are controlled by investors who will pay a premium for news. Again, that side steps the issue of freely available information for the new type of readers. These wires aren’t real journalism organizations from a social media perspective.

Journalism is a valuable industry because it promotes the accessibility of knowledge. Look at the stories that won awards by SAJA – they are all investigative stories that provoke the public in thinking about new issues, or old issues in a new way. But these aren’t the types of news media that are hiring, except for CNN who was also a sponsor of the convention. There were no recruiters from the New York Times, WashPo, Huffington Post for goodness sakes, Vanity Fair, The Atlantic etc. It seems like my options as an aspiring journalist would be between serving investors (or anyone else willing to pay a premium for breaking businesses news) and freelancing/blogging.

And maybe that’s okay. Maybe I just need to come to terms with an expiration date of the old dreams of journalist – being a staffer at an influential publication – and embrace entrepreneurial journalism, and run with it. Maybe.

By the standards of new media, I’m a failure because this blog doesn’t attract much attention. Its irrational in the link economy framework, but we spend so much of our time seeking public exposure that it’s cathartic to write whatever I want for a microscopic slice of the world who might care.

Advertisements