The editor of the New York Times, Bill Keller, and newspaperman/blogger, Jeff Jarvis, are having an email conversation about newspapers, blogs and the future of journalism. Quite interesting reading.

Choice quotes from Keller:

We both understand that the media world is changing in profound and exciting ways — although you seem pretty convinced that you know where it ends up, while I’m not so certain of the trajectory…

… And, in any case, what’s the point of negotiating a compact with an institution you — or at least your more theological brethren in the blogosphere — regard as irrelevant? …

While we probably have our differences on the role of the MSM (btw, I personally favor “elite media,” at least as it pertains to the NYT) I would like to make clear that I consider blogs relevant and important. I do not hold them in disdain, as you imply. I won’t risk embarrassing my favorite bloggers by identifying them (except to say that buzzmachine is bookmarked in my office and at home) but I find the best of them to be a source of provocative insights, first-hand witness, original analysis, rollicking argument and occasional revelation.

Jarvis responds:

As for “MSM,” I object to the view that established media is mainstream. You’re right — it’s elitist. It’s the blogs that are the mainstream. I prefer to call what we do in suits big media…

… I do earnestly believe — as someone who straddles both worlds: mediaman by day, blogboy by night — that we must work together to improve news, inform the public, and even save journalism…

… It’s about changing the relationship of news to the public — getting past the idea that news is done and fishwrap when we’re done with it and realizing that publishing is the start of the conversation, for that is when the public corrects us and adds information and perspective we did not have. It’s about extending the newsroom in ways we cannot afford to do, as our revenue shrinks. It’s about recapturing credibility, respect, and humanity for journalism. It’s about changing news together (and, no, I don’t know where this trajectory takes us, but we both certainly know it’s not going to stay the same)…

Great stuff. Keller obviously doesn’t hold any disdain for bloggers which, quite frankly, I wouldn’t have believed before reading his email. Most of the reaction I’ve seen from both journalists and academia is that they don’t appreciate the intrusion into their club. In addition, Keller recognizes that blogs will fundamentally change the way journalism works — not a small admission from the editor of the most prestigious newspaper in the world. I disagree with him that bloggers see the mainstream (or elitist?) media as irrelevant. Not irrelevant, just out of touch. A profession that has long forgotten that their readership doesn’t agree with them on everything. Blogs provide ink for the masses.

Jarvis makes some great points, too. I agree that journalism needs saving. I’m not sure that blogs are the way to do it, but I don’t see any other great ideas coming down the path. Blogs certainly speak to Jarvis’ complaints about the media — which also seem to be the same complaints voiced by our readers.

So what should we make of this meeting of the minds? I’d call it a great start.

By the way, I should offer a hattip to pjnet, a blog from the Kennesaw State University journalism department. The KSU program is dedicated to the field of citizen journalism. Certain tenets of that journalistic philosophy appear to mesh quite well with blogs. Interesting to see where this school of thought goes.