Few people are better equipped to imagine the future of online journalism than Emily Bell. Currently the Director of Columbia University’s Tow Center for Digital Journalism, Bell was formerly director of digital content at the Guardian newspaper where she pioneered much of what we now take for granted about online journalism. And now Bell has co-authored (with Clay Shirky and C.W. Anderson) a controversial report about the future of journalism entitled Post Industrial Journalism. As Bell told me when we talked in her New York office, she believes that online journalism has a future – both in terms of content sitting behind paywalls, ad-supported news, and content subsidized by organizations or wealthy individuals. Indeed, in what Bell calls the “disruptive stage” of online journalism, she thinks that there are now “massive opportunities” for entrepreneurs looking to reinvent journalism.
So is Bell right? Are publications like ProPublica, Quartz and even TechCrunch symbols of a golden age of post-industrial journalism? Or is it possible, as some have argued, that the Internet is actually killing the news industry and thus weakening our democracy?