Read the whole thing. Nieman Journalism Lab: Clay Shirky at the Shorenstein Center on the Press, Politics and Public Policy:
…in the nightmare scenario that I’ve kind of been spinning at for the last couple years has been: Every town in this country of 500,000 or less just sinks into casual, endemic, civic corruption — that without somebody going down to the city council again today, just in case, that those places will simply revert to self-dealing. Not of epic, catastrophic sorts, but the sort that just takes five percent off the top. Newspapers have been our principal bulwark for that, and as they’re shrinking, that I think is where the threat is.
…So we don’t need another different kind of institution that does 85 percent of accountability journalism. We need a class of institutions or models, whether they’re endowments or crowdsourced or what have you — we need a model that produces five percent of accountability journalism. And we need to get that right 17 times in a row. That’s the issue before us. There will not be anything that replaces newspapers, because if you could write the list of stuff you needed and organizational characteristics and it looked like newspapers, newspapers would be able to fill that role, right?
It is really a shift from one class of institutions to the ecosystem as a whole where I think we have to situate the need of our society for accountability. I also want to distance myself — and I’ll end shortly. But I want to distance myself, with that observation I also want to distance myself from the utopians in my tribe, the web tribe, and even to some degree the optimists.
I think a bad thing is going to happen, right? And it’s amazing to me how much, in a conversation conducted by adults, the possibility that maybe things are just going to get a lot worse for a while does not seem to be something people are taking seriously. But I think this falling into relative corruption of moderate-sized cities and towns — I think that’s baked into the current environment. I don’t think there’s any way we can get out of that kind of thing. So I think we are headed into a long trough of decline in accountability journalism, because the old models are breaking faster than the new models can be put into place.
Again read the whole thing.
People tend to pick apart Shirky’s writings to find what supports their arguments. Which, I partially just did in fact, so don’t do that – absorb the nuance because the opportunities and problems at hand are far more complicated than the either naysayers or utopians would lead us believe.