Unthinkable but obvious

In March 2009 Clay Shirky wrote an excellent essay about the nature of changes happening to society, newspapers and journalism (“Newspapers and Thinking the Unthinkable“). It got more than 1,200 responding links since then (a tremendous amount). That remarks how important that topic seems to be especially in the blogging scene, wich is apparently no wonder.

Now, in this Interview with Jay Rosen from the New York University he explains how he tried  with this essay to write in a way that people from inside the newspapers can comprehend and get on the subject wich is far beyond the very only existence of newspapers. From my point of view this is the real goal he has achieved with the text. He compares our situation with the 1500s, when the invention of print changed the whole (known) world in a revolutionary way.

The Interview is pretty long (but it is worth it; it deepens and substantiate the topic and brings a lot of lights to the surface), below is just the first part, so make sure there’s enough leisure in the place.


Part 2 · Part 3 · Part 4 · Part 5

Discussion (2)¬

  1. Lars says:

    When I learned my first profession back in the early nineties (I got a three year education as a traditional typesetter, both manual and machine hot type and photosetting), the so called “Desktop Publishing Revolution” was already in its final stage. I learned this profession because I got the apprenticeship when the Berlin Wall was still up and I lived in the former German Democratic Rebublic, wich meant you took what you were getting. As soon as I realized that I was learning an almost dead profession I inquired the local union to get some support for a Desktop Publishing lecture in that school, wich was not part of the official lesson plans. Finally at the very end we got a 4-week-lecture in MS Word and in the general Operating System on Macintosh Computers. This was not much, but a beginning. As soon as I finished my education I bought books over books on Desktop Publishing and went to a friends work place, a print shop, where I was allowed to use their Macintosh Computers at night and learned as much as I could over the subject by practical training. Half a year later I was applying for a Graphic Design internship at a local advertising agency and with a lot of enthusiasm and eagerness got the job. Another year later I was getting my first fulltime position as a Junior Graphic Designer at another agency.

    I think what’s happening to the classic print journalism today is similar to the “Desktop Publishing Revolution”. It took an awful lot of jobs away, it even killed whole professions, but as long people learned how to react to that change and learned accordingly, they got their chances. It might be a hardship in many ways, but you cannot stop technological progression. I think that is what Clay Shirky is talking about in his essay (he even takes a much more widespread approach – beginning with Gutenberg and his invention).

    And I think the many responses to his essay are because so many people do agree on his analysis on the subject. It seems so obvious that it is almos painful to see how print journalism is defended as like internet publishing would kill the only Professional Journalism — that is, in many’s eyes, old Print Journalism. But that’s simply not true. Journalists will have to learn how to respond to the changes of technology; Print Newspapers will have to adapt as well. This is in full progress (see yesterdays announcement of Murdochs iPad Newspaper) and it might go wrong in many cases (see yesterdays anouncement of Murdochs iPad Newspaper) and it might be succesful in some cases – - but in the very end it is most importantly one thing: Unstoppable.

    And in the end it is this true one thing I learned pretty quick after the Wall came down about the Western Capitalism: Only the fittest will survive.

    If you like it or not.

  2. Gin Sexsmith says:


    I’m researching changes in journalism and stumbled upon Clay Shirky’s ‘Thinking the Unthinkable’, which led me to your comment and blog. What is your opinion on the change from newspapers to online journalism – and the fear stemming from people who are employed by newspapers?

    Also, I found it phenomenal how many responding links Shirky’s essay receieved – do you think part of the reason for that was because blogging was newer in 2009?

    I hope to hear back from you!

    Gin Sexsmith