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Real-Time Revolution

We all know that journalism is going through some tough times – the "Goodbye To Newspapers" articles and doom-and-gloom polls are regular fodder for this space – but apparently so is journalism about journalism. (You still with me on this side of the rabbit hole?)

Howard Kurtz reports in today's Washington Post that the American Journalism Review may be in its final days:

American Journalism Review, the influential but financially troubled media journal, could face a shutdown by year's end.
Tom Kunkel, the review's president, said it is "more likely" that the magazine will be able to continue publishing next year, but that he must close a deficit of roughly $200,000 -- about one-quarter of its annual budget…

He said there is "no guarantee" of survival but "we haven't been given a drop-dead date or anything like that."

This is less a story about the American Journalism Review's failures -- they've consistently put out high-quality think pieces – than it is about the success story of today's media criticism online.

The 21st century is about The Now, especially when it comes to the media. It's thinking about what we're reading and living through and processing at the moment – sometimes superficially, sometimes more thoroughly, but always in The Now. We grapple with reporters in swimsuits working a story. We try to wrap our head around reporting from Baghdad. But we do it in real time.

There are myriad Web sites devoted to what's going on in MediaLand today. You're reading one now. So what is the unique selling proposition of a sometimes monthly, sometimes bi-monthly, sometimes non-monthly magazine that tells you, I don't know, about 'Reporting From Graceland on the 30th Anniversary of Elvis Presley' Death' in the October/November 2007 issue? (One journalist recently shared with me the deadline pressure of a piece that will be read, likely, around Thanksgiving.)

Even this avid reader of AJR wonders how it has continued to succeed for so long in this media universe. (Heck, this troglodyte still misses Brill's Content.) The Internet, journalism websites and blogs have taken the lead in the media commentary world. They've taken the concept of media criticism and media literacy from the campuses to the mainstream – sometimes with snark, many times with a political agenda, but always in a way more readable to the average media consumer.

Take a look at AJR's "mission statement":

American Journalism Review is a national magazine that covers all aspects of print, television, radio and online media. The magazine, which is published six times a year, examines how the media cover specific stories and broader coverage trends. AJR analyzes ethical dilemmas in the field and monitors the impact of technology on how journalism is practiced and on the final product.
The magazine's fate itself may be a bad news story, but the good news is that its mission is being carried out by other means ... and you, the reader, and me, the writer, we're all a part of it.
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