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06 May 2007

The milestones of a dying industry

The wit and sarcastic wisdom of Iowahawk has struck again, laying out a brilliant parody charting the course of decline and failure of American newspaper industry through a (notional) old family fishwrapper.

We have more than a passing interest in the death of this venerable information industry – including a frank obsession with what manner of strange and mutated things may emerge from its grave. We have noted previously our strongly held belief that where first goes the journalist and media model, there too could follow the all too similar industrial age structures of the intelligence community should reform not occur.

To be sure, the financial drivers are different, and the narrow windows on this unique kind of marketplace reveal a very different kind of environment. But we often see many of the same underlying assumptions of primacy, authority, and tradition that simply may not hold true in the face of competitive pressures from along another axis of Porter’s Five Forces Model.

It is ironic then that we have seen so many academic programs attempt to borrow from the conventions of the journalism schools (some even going so far as to employ former journalists as intelligence professors) as the intelligence studies field struggles to find its model as a distinct profession. One can argue that the ossified homogeneity of the “great” j-schools has done much to harden the assumptions, and to reinforce their own sort of mystique, in a manner which has prevented the flagships of the industry from recognizing and adapting to changes which have threatened to render them irrelevant.

Needless to say, our views differ markedly on the issues of professionalization and mystique with the intelligence profession, and we are troubled by the increasing number of attempts to emulate models which are widely recognizable, but which have created brand without substance or rigor.

While today we may laugh at the spasms of another information industry’s demise, unless the intelligence profession comes to terms with similar drivers that have killed the newspaper, we may very well find ourselves with a terminal cough tomorrow. And no other professional models – particularly journalism or even medicine, will suffice to save the community until we find our native strengths and adaptations in this new environment.

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