Accountants and journalists have a lot in common—a lot of people don't like us. There was a period during the accounting scandals when accountants and reporters were right next to each other down, far down the list of most admired professions, and we hadn't moved up. Another thing we have in common is that our businesses have been built looking backwards. Accountants record historical transactions. Journalists record things that have happened. Accountants have been told they must become more forwarded looking. Journalists must do the same. In fact, accountants have an easier time. They have audits and taxation, a regulatory environment that provides the potential for a steady stream of business. No one is required to read a print publication or visit a publishing house's Internet site. I am not predicting the end of print. Every time I visit Borders or Barnes & Noble, I witness crowds devouring books and magazines. Print isn't going away. But journalists must change because the Internet removes the need to have so many of us providing historical information. That is particularly true in technology journalism. Most people aren't concerned about what happened in the past. Who wants to read year-old software reviews? We all want to know what we are going to be able to buy within the next year. What's the latest gadget? And that's the long-term view. The real solution for journalism is difficult because it requires an investment in people, not easy to do when margins are under pressure. But unless we are all going into business selling rejiggered data that is gathered by a bunch of electronic grunts, the main thing we have to sell is the knowledge we have that can be used to help our readers make decisions to keep their businesses alive and breathing. There is no gain in body counting. I've never believed too much in the concept of disintermediation. That's the process by which the Internet supposedly removes the need to have intermediaries who interpret things. On the contrary, we need more intermediaries. If you have ever walked into a store with a large audio-video section, you have probably found yourself bewildered by choices. It's the sales person's job to limit choices—what's your price range, how serious are you about music and what types? Without a salesperson's help, there is a good chance you won't make a buying decision. The vast amount of data available is like that confusing sales room. Without someone to limit the choices, it's hard to make a decision. This is the market in which journalists should have an opportunity to prosper. Like accountants, we must know what our market is. There's not much to be gained from covering accounting scandals and Sarbanes-Oxley, except stroking your own ego, if your best chance of serving readers is talking about write-up software and how they can do a better job hiring. We must interpret, not record. As I like to say, "Disintermediate, never. Intermediate now!" Or risk disintegrating as a profession.
Register or login for access to this item and much more
All Accounting Today content is archived after seven days.
Community members receive:
- All recent and archived articles
- Conference offers and updates
- A full menu of enewsletter options
- Web seminars, white papers, ebooks
Already have an account? Log In
Don't have an account? Register for Free Unlimited Access