Television is dead, the newsstand finished, editors weak and journalism is in a dark, uncertain place, says Tina Brown, the woman who edited the New Yorker, Vanity Fair and Newsweek.
Brown was speaking at the THiNK festival in Goa on Saturday. “The digital explosion has been so explosive,” said Brown, responding to a question on the state of journalism, during her session on Friday, “there isn’t a single place where the digital thing is a profit thing. The disruption hasn’t brought a business model.”
The British journalist who helmed among the best-known American magazines, bringing equal parts unique style and controversy to her jobs, no longer reads magazines herself.
“The habit has gone,” she said, later speaking to reporters.
And the written word is possibly, slowly going too, she told the audience during her session.
“I think you can have more satisfaction from live conversations,” she said, adding we were “going back to oral culture where the written word will be less relevant.”
And to that end, Brown will soon be departing from journalism altogether, instead building and developing the “Women in the World” conference series which looks at foreign affairs through the eyes of women. She plans to bring the series to Delhi next year. “It has become influential in the women’s movement,” she said.
Brown’s departure from the Daily Beast, a digital news outlet which she founded in 2008, comes at a time when journalism is itself fighting to stay relevant. The sorry state of affairs is such that “editorial outfits are now advertising agencies” and advertisements masquerading as journalistic content has become a norm, she said.
“Journalists have not been aggressive enough about fighting back; it’s a very, very pathetic moment in journalism.”
And with entertainment conglomerates buying up news companies, television too is in a poor state.
“TV is dead and now they are chasing a demographic they are never going to find,” said Brown. “We’ve reached a moment…‘my god the television is an ugly piece of furniture’.”
Reflecting on Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos taking over the struggling Washington Post newspaper this year, Brown viewed the enterprise with a whiff of cynicism.
“Owning news makes you important; it gives you a seat at the table. The number one way of becoming powerful in Washington is by becoming the Washington Post.”