21st-Century Journalism | Wicked Problems

Sinclair Broadcasting is Part of a Wicked Problem

Journalism + Design’s founding director, Heather Chaplin, is exploring the idea of seeing the crisis in journalism as a wicked problem. “It’s a tangled knot that is changing and creating new knots all the time,” she wrote in an essay earlier this year.

In a new, regular column for the Columbia Journalism Review, Chaplin explores ten concepts that are critical for thinking about wicked problems, as articulated by design theorists Horst Rittel and Melvin Webber.

Her column will take those points, one by one, and apply them to journalism.

First up: “Every solution to a wicked problem is a one-shot operation.”

This attitude has famously been the mantra of of Silicon Valley, but Americans, denizens of a country that is itself an innovation, seem to have a soft spot for men who like to break things. Look where it’s gotten the media ecosystem, particularly in the case of Sinclair Broadcasting.

Rittel and Webber wrote that every attempt at a fix for a wicked problem is a “one-shot operation”: There are no second chances, because any change you make will have affected the whole system.

This has serious implications for our love affair with innovation.

Read the full essay here.