The Road Ahead: Journalists v Bloggers

The rift between The Detroit News and its auto critic, Scott Burgess, (see Lane Changes) may well be resolved by the time this newsletter is distributed but it touches on the tensions in professional journalism described by NYU Journalism Professor Jay Rosen in his insightful talk at the recent South by Southwest Interactive Conference and Festival in Austin, TX. (http://pressthink.org)

In analyzing the continuing name-calling between journalists and bloggers although he says the war between the two camps has long been over, Rosen reasons, “disruptions caused by the Internet threaten to expose certain buried conflicts at the heart of modern journalism and a commercialized press.” One of those conflicts was evidenced when the online version of a Burgess column was rewritten after an advertiser complained. With publishers busy exchanging print and broadcast dollars for digital dimes (as Rosen describes it) the definition of professional journalism itself must change.

“Our experiment with a free press is 250 years old. Whole chapters of it were discarded by American journalists when they tried to make themselves more scientific and objective in order to claim elevated status.” Yet, “No one ever says, I went into journalism because I have a passion for being… objective.’ Or: ‘Detachment, that’s my thing. I’m kind of a detached guy, so I figured this would be a good field for me.”

Rosen says. ” . . . the terms of authority (in pro journalism) have to change. The practice has to become more interactive. And this is happening under conditions of enormous stress.” The story the professional press has been telling itself has broken down. It no longer helps the journalist navigate the real world conditions under which journalism is done today. Somehow, journalists have to start telling themselves a better story about what they do and why it matters. And we have to help them. We interactive people.”

David Sullivan in his blog says, ” We need to stop thinking that we are competing with everyone in the world. We are competing with people who do what we do to gain the readership of people who want to follow what we do. Those are our customers. Other customers will go to other types of information. With every person having a printing press, it has to be that way. There are too many options to cover every bet. We have to figure out what customers we can get and what they want, and not be worried about the customers we won’t get.”

That heroic view is contrasted by James Fallows in The Atlantic Magazine in a piece titled Learning to Love the (Shallow, Divisive, Unreliable) New Media. He writes “If we accept that the media will probably become more and more market-minded, and that an imposed conscience in the form of legal requirements or traditional publishing norms will probably have less and less effect, what are the results we most fear? I think there are four:

  • that this will become an age of lies, idiocy, and a complete Babel of “truthiness,” in which no trusted arbiter can establish reality or facts;
  • that the media will fail to cover too much of what really matters, as they are drawn toward the sparkle of entertainment and away from the depressing realities of the statehouse, the African capital, the urban school system, the corporate office when corners are being cut;
  • that the forces already pulverizing American society into component granules will grow all the stronger, as people withdraw into their own separate information spheres;
  • and that our very ability to think, concentrate, and decide will deteriorate, as a media system optimized for attracting quick hits turns into a continual-distraction machine for society as a whole, making every individual and collective problem harder to assess and respond to.”

This Post Has 2 Comments

  1. Hi Glenn,
    You do a terrific job. This is my first comment ever, but I need to echo the sentiment that the war between the traditional print media and the blogs is way over..it’s not up to me to decide who is worthy to cover an event, it is up the the manufacturer…all the blog people i have been with are professional in their approach to covering the beat, so i have no problem with them being on programs. The bottom line is the content and the value to our audience. Our audience is measured by subs….we have more than 600,000 and they are better than “uniques”. our mission will be to continue to serve them first and foremost. i welcome our blogger pals…I think they added a much needed blast of fresh air.

  2. Fallows’ last bullet point doom forecast is typical shallow thinking that was preceded by gloom and doom cranky old farts every time a social norm became obsolete. When the poor learned how to read and write, when slaves were freed, when gas lamps lit the streets and houses, when the car became inconvienent to horse drawn buggy owners, when electricity was brought to the masses, when tv was invented, when the microwave started cooking food, when the internet became easily available, and when cell phones revolutioned person to person communication.
    Now Fallow forecasts “an age of idiocy” and “our very ability to think etc etc” is doomed and “Media will fail to cover too much of what really matters”. In Bugs Bunny’s phrase, “What a maroon”

    Fallow, use your brain for more than blocking light from going between your ears. If the content of any media source is what people want, they will find it, they will enjoy it, they will cause it to succeed beyond it’s competition. If you build it (well) they will come (to the one they like the most)

    Anyone, or any news source, will be the best, or get the most readers due to one thing… deliver what they want.

    Rosen had a brilliant comment about objective journalism… my compliments! Bravo! That is intuitive and astute!

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