Howard Kurtz on "The Death of Print" and another point of view

In today's Washington Post (online) Howard Kurtz joins the ongoing conversation (dirge?) on the topic of the future of newspapers. We've heard it over and over--the economics don't work any more for that pulpy pile of newsprint arriving (at or near) the front door (from time to time). Investigative reporting is expensive, and the new media world may not be able to protect us from the oversight we rely on particularly in small communities.

All of this is familiar, and it has a great deal of truth to it. But isn't it time for (gasp!) the main stream media to look at the technology world and see their future unfolding. No I'm not talking about innovations in technology; I'm talking about open source. I'm talking about a change that has happened over the last decade or so when much (but certainly not all) software became available without the confines of confidentiality and trade secrets ... and also without a price tag.

Those of us who started out writing proprietary code knew that our careers depended on secrecy so that our software was available only on payment. If code was free. how would we live? Who would pay us?

As it turns out, many of us make a decent living working with open source code. The crown jewels of the code are available to anyone. In many areas of software, we don't have a monopoly on access to the crown jewels.

But guess what? There are many people in this world who don't want to look at the crown jewels, much less wear them. They want to run a business or a political campaign; they want to create sustainable growth and wonderful new works of art. Some of us have made the transition from being masters of the magic in the sense of writing it to being masters of the magic in the sense of explaining it. It's really much the same job, but we're billing for a slightly different approach to it.

Many of us bemoaned the fact that the economic model of closed source code was going away in many cases, but what hasn't gone away is that people who want to use technology want to talk about those uses and not about the technology.

So what if the new media model doesn't allow newspapers to pay for long-term investigative reporting? Do people really want investigative journalism? Or do they want to know what it means and how to use whatever is printed on those dead trees.