When asked if a Journalist can be a good Capitalist, the first thing that came to my mind was baby cut carrots. In the 1980’s an innovative California farmer named Mike Yurosek, wanted to find a way to use otherwise unseemly carrots. After some experimentation and creative use of industrial machinery, baby cut carrots soon became the new darling of the produce world. Not long after their introduction, new carrots were bred for uniformity of color and size and sweetness. Now, more than 172 million tons of these cleaned, pealed, easy to consume, betacarotene packed snacks are sold a year.
The story of baby cut carrots is a nice example of how a little tweak can change consumer behavior. And on the surface, I can’t help but think maybe the same could be done for Journalism. Maybe we just need to make it more attractive, easier to consume and somehow diminutive. But then I realized we already do that with online media, and specifically micro-blogging. What’s more diminutive than 140 characters and emoticons? And links in our online endeavors can provide the hidden nutrition in our information snacks.
So, I set aside the carrot idea and decided to revisit Economics theory to figure out exactly what this question was asking. What I found in my review was that the basis of Capitalism is economic gain that benefits the individual above all others. The public good or nutritional value are irrelevant. And this is contrary to the fundamentals of what I believe good journalism to be: information that engages the public to participate for the betterment of society. If we are only about personal gain, then statutes like “do no harm,” have no place in our profession, and that’s something I personally wouldn’t be able to stomach.
The reality of it is, to survive as an endeavor, Journalism requires money, but to survive as a business it has to make profit. If you take the profit part out, you’re left with what is now a growing trend of non-profit journalism. Although the desire for profit can fuel innovation, the nature of non-profit (one hopes) decreases the dueling intentions.
The thing about baby cut carrots is, even though they are somewhat processed, they are still relatively good for you. Small tweaks make a difference. In Journalism, we just need to make sure we are tweaking the right thing.