The collapse of pro journalism parallels the collapse of the planet, he argues, and journalism shouldn’t treat or respond to the phenomenon as a coincidence:
For those who believe that a robust public-affairs journalism is essential for a society striving to be democratic, the 21st century has been characterized by bad news that keeps getting worse.
Whatever one’s evaluation of traditional advertising-supported news media (and I have been among its critics; more on that later), the unraveling of that business model has left us with fewer professional journalists who are being paid a living wage to do original reporting. It’s unrealistic to imagine that journalism can flourish without journalists who have the time and resources to do journalism.
For those who care about a robust human presence on the planet, the 21st century has been characterized by really bad news that keeps getting really, really worse.
Whatever one’s evaluation of high-energy/high-technology civilization (and I have been among its critics; more on that later), it’s now clear that we are hitting physical limits; we cannot expect to maintain contemporary levels of consumption that draw down the ecological capital of the planet at rates dramatically beyond replacement levels. It unrealistic to imagine that we can go on treating the planet as nothing more than a mine from which we extract and a landfill into which we dump.
We have no choice but to deal with the collapse of journalism, but we also should recognize the need for a journalism of collapse. Everyone understands that economic changes are forcing a refashioning of the journalism profession. It’s long past time for everyone to pay attention to how multiple, cascading ecological crises should be changing professional journalism’s mission in even more dramatic fashion.
It’s time for an apocalyptic journalism (that takes some explaining; a lot more on that later).
It’s a bit of a long read, and well worth the time even if you don’t much care for or about mainstream journalism, unless you’ve got a spare planet somewhere that you can go live on.
Which leads to why I call this pro journalism’s next, last mission: because I believe that global environmental degradation (largely anthropogenic) is the biggest story on the planet right now and will continue to be for at least a couple more generations, and because I believe that that degradation already is too far gone for us to prevent widespread death and destruction within my children’s lifetimes. Only global thermonuclear war, impact with a sizable comet or asteroid, or invasion by hostile space aliens risk greater damage, and none is anywhere near as likely as harm from environmental damage.
If you, a journalist, want to be relevant, you can put start by putting variations of that story on your front page every day. I don’t care if you’re The New York Times or the Podunk Daily Bugle, there’s an angle you can work. If your downtown were being destroyed, you’d cover it. The fact that the damage is in slow motion or that you can’t see it from your office window doesn’t mean the damage to your home planet is any less real or any less of a story.