George Vecsey and the evolution of routines

There was one part of the George Vecsey interview on The Morning Delivery that I didn't have a place for in yesterday's post. Here's the exchange:

"Q. How has the culture of journalism changed since you first stepped into the Times’ newsroom over 40 years ago?

A. The 24-hour cycle means there is no natural rhythm of trolling for contacts, details, writing a first draft, wandering out to lunch, revising -- the cycle that still makes sense to me. Somebody always wants your copy for the Web. So you rush -- maybe not at the expense of basic accuracy, but surely at the cost of writing and structure and fullness. On the other hand, we live in a 24-hour cycle, so I guess journalism needs to reflect that."

This quote illustrates some of the things that I'm finding in my research. In a lot of ways, "The Web" is radically changing how reporters do their job. If you will, it's revolutionizing journalism. Now, by "The Web" I mean that as an all-inclusive phrase - publishing online, social media, convergence, all of it. These are huge changes to how people are doing their jobs.

This is real. This is a big deal.

I feel like this point is glossed over or ignored in a lot of talk about the future of news, the future of journalism, the future of sports reporting, etc. These changes are viewed in some circles as a good thing, a break-up of the hegemonic cartel that mass media has held over the marketplace of ideas. At the very least, I've sensed a "too-bad, so-sad" vibe from digital advocates about these changes, kind of the "suck it up, soldier. Change, or get out of the way."

That attitude's always troubled me. Not because it's wrong - digital is obviously the future, if not the present. But because of a general lack of understanding and, frankly, compassion for the reporters who are seeing their jobs completely change all around them.

Read Vecsey's quote again. "There is no natural rhythm … the cycle that still makes sense to me." That's real. That's a veteran journalist who had the ground move out from under him. That's someone seeing everything he thought he knew about his job change on him.

There are many, many, many reasons the newspaper industry is struggling with its evolution from print to digital. There are business reasons, bureaucratic reasons, technological reasons. But if you're wondering why so many journalists themselves are struggling with this evolution, remember what Vecsey said. The natural rhythm that is a part of so many journalists' DNA is gone, and the new cycle that so many of us demand from sports reporters isn't second nature to many in the business yet. That evolution takes time.