People just don’t value journalism as much as journalists do.
May 11, 2012 10:59 AM   Subscribe

Fungible: A treatise on fungibility, or, a framework for understanding the mess the news industry is in and the opportunities that lie ahead. The younger the person you ask, the less likely it is you’ll find that link between wanting to know what’s going on and grabbing a paper or opening up a news website. They use Pinterest to figure out what’s fashionable and Facebook to see if there’s anything fun going on next weekend. They use Facebook just the same to figure out whether there’s anything they need to be upset about and need to protest against.
posted by shakespeherian (25 comments total) 12 users marked this as a favorite

 
No, we read bloggers like Glenn Greenwald.
posted by dunkadunc at 11:02 AM on May 11, 2012 [1 favorite]


I don't know about Pinterest and Facebook specifically, but I totally agree with the spirit of avoiding "news" websites. Corporate ownership coupled with lowest-common-denominator idiotic reporting = not a great source of information.

MetaFilter and various other sites, where you can get the information from multiple independent sources is a much better idea.
posted by DU at 11:04 AM on May 11, 2012 [14 favorites]


Oh and I haven't been in my 20s for 10 years or more.
posted by DU at 11:04 AM on May 11, 2012


That's a treatise alright. Its all over the place. I think the assumption that there arent still large and important groups of people of all ages that dont know a pinterest from a tumblr is way off, but ramble on, dude.
posted by cashman at 11:13 AM on May 11, 2012 [1 favorite]


Curbed is a superb real-estate website. Is Curbed journalism because they started out with news and added a marketplace later?

Well, whatever it is, it turns out it can depress me just as efficiently as good ole fashioned regular journalism.

My living room has no windows.
posted by griphus at 11:14 AM on May 11, 2012 [1 favorite]


They use Facebook just the same to figure out whether there’s anything they need to be upset about and need to protest against.

At least they're not using cable news.
posted by JHarris at 11:21 AM on May 11, 2012


it takes a couple more decades before you learn that what you need to be upset about is vastly different from what it is fashionable to be upset about.
posted by quonsar II: smock fishpants and the temple of foon at 11:23 AM on May 11, 2012 [2 favorites]


People just don’t value journalism as much as journalists do.

Also, this is a total misrepresentation. People value journalism highly. They just don't find it on news websites or TV.

People's hunger for quality reporting would be more apparent if you could time-shift good journalism from the past the way you can with quality tools at flea markets and estate sales. But our only option is to get our news from the Harbor Freights and WalMarts of the news industry, so we rely on theoretically-inferior but practically-far-superior sources like hearsay on the Internet.
posted by DU at 11:27 AM on May 11, 2012 [7 favorites]


Why does he ignore public radio? NPR has been fashionable among my 20-something set for almost as long as I can remember. If we had gainful employment, we'd all be carrying our things around in tote bags and drinking out of mugs.
posted by The White Hat at 11:35 AM on May 11, 2012 [1 favorite]


Here's a key point buried among the stuff about Reddit and Pinterest and IMDB:

"These disruptors don’t replace investigative reporting, but they replace the other 95% of what made professional news organizations important."

No. They replace 95 percent of the content that news organizations pumped out. That 95 percent made the products from news organizations entertaining, perhaps even informative if done well. It's that remaining 5 percent that made professional news organizations important. (I'd peg it at more than 5 percent, but I'll go with his numbers for the sake of argument.)

It's the investigative reporting that uncovers incompetence in City Hall, corporate bribery, and hundreds of other things that the public needs to know about. Good investigative reporting takes money. It used to be that the remaining 95 percent of the content covered the cost. Now we can get that 95 percent somewhere else without paying for it. Which means we stand to lose the 5 percent that's important. That's the real challenge for news organizations.
posted by Longtime Listener at 11:36 AM on May 11, 2012 [16 favorites]


They just don't find it on news websites or TV.

Or, in many cases, in the newspaper. I'd really like to be a Washington Post subscriber, but they give me a reason not to be - killing off their book section, pulling in more and more wire service articles to cover for their purged newsroom, focusing ever more relentlessly on celebrity news while ignoring local issues, ads masquerading as articles ... the signal to noise ratio is just too low to bother.

For every person that's only interested in trends and indignation, there's probably at least one that is looking for substantive, useful information and not finding it in a traditional news outlet.
posted by ryanshepard at 11:40 AM on May 11, 2012 [1 favorite]


If well-funded news orgs started to take on the corporate kleptocracy, uncovering their scandals, roasting their corrupt leaders, and pointing out the lies their competitors tell, they'd be all the things he says that it's hard for news orgs to be these days-- unboring, vital, storytelling for the public good.
posted by cell divide at 11:46 AM on May 11, 2012 [5 favorites]


There is some kind of implicit assumption that the young used to get things from newspapers/etc, but are now getting from entirely different sources on the web. I find that assumption -- that they used to actually read newspapers or watch news programs -- to be highly flawed. I don't think very many young people have been doing those things. They have other things, like drinking and getting a job and getting laid and getting hooked up, etc., to do. From what I've seen, the news awareness of the young has improved, though likely mostly due to The Daily Show (hey, that is broadcast! Kinda. Though I get it from iTunes)
posted by Bovine Love at 11:55 AM on May 11, 2012 [2 favorites]


Professional news organizations are still very heavily used as a source of basic facts. The NYT or the Guardian publishes an article saying, "Here is a thing that happened," and the broader Internet builds on it: people share it on Twitter or Facebook or Metafilter; Wikipedia uses it as a reference; Google News aggregates all the other articles on the same topic from all the other news sources; bloggers provide analysis from every possible perspective; Gawker fluffs it up with breathless excitement or outrage for the sake of ad revenue. Hell, I get almost all my local news from a mix of (a) tiny independent media outlets staffed mainly by professional journalists, and (b) bloggers who aggregate the stories worth reading from the mainstream sources every day. Most of us don't get the news by reading a whole newspaper or single news website anymore, but the stuff that the professionals publish is a fundamental and necessary part of the whole ecosystem. It sure doesn't look like "citizen journalism" is going to supplant them in that role anytime soon.
posted by twirlip at 11:59 AM on May 11, 2012 [5 favorites]


what’s fashionable and ... if there’s anything fun going

That's not news.
posted by DarkForest at 12:06 PM on May 11, 2012 [1 favorite]


My local fishwrap, facing declining readership and ad revenues, has put a paywall on their website and hiked the price of the paper by 50%.

I won't miss it.
posted by tommasz at 12:21 PM on May 11, 2012 [4 favorites]


It's the investigative reporting that uncovers incompetence in City Hall, corporate bribery, and hundreds of other things that the public needs to know about.

What is Wikileaks, Alex?

Do you need investigative reporting when you have disillusioned, disgruntled or ethical people in these organizations/businesses?

Is it possible to build an evil political/corporate machine without inadvertently hiring someone who'll blow the whistle given the chance?
posted by mmrtnt at 12:28 PM on May 11, 2012 [1 favorite]


And does that in turn mean they just don’t care about stuff in general anymore and have become jaded and uninterested in politics and world news (for which there is some evidence), or is there more to it and are people perhaps getting their information needs met in other, more convenient or more exciting ways?

This is the crux of it, I think.

I've argued with my FIL, a former journalist, about newspapers. He doesn't think you can get news anywhere but the local paper. Easy for him to say, as his local paper is excellent. Strong newspeople, reporting on significant issues. Mine, though, was bought out by Gannett. It's more concerned with celebrities and the fluff that pays the advertising bills than anything that really matters to me. I don't read my newspaper, either. But I am informed.

It's incredibly dismissive to say that young people, "use Facebook just the same to figure out whether there’s anything they need to be upset about and need to protest against." It's also NOT my experience with the kids I know. My oldest, in college, shares TED talks with me. My youngest son already understands way more about scientific developments than the light-weights running our local newspaper. We discuss the Daily Show, Meet the Press and the Colbert Report, Metafilter, etc.

What "young people" want is what everyone wants, I think: engaging media. Some news shows are getting this wrong by trying to come across like popular blogs, bringing in Tweets and watering down the news, assuming we don't care about social or political issues and we just want to socialize.

Of course people care about important issues, but rather than sit and read about them in a newspaper, or watch the TV news repeat the same few stories throughout the course of the day, they are getting more and more of their news online. We live in a global community. Active and politically conscious people--and a lot of them are young!--are sharing issues across cities, states and countries, and maybe they use social media to do it sometimes, but not always.

Often information is disseminated through university and college campuses. And when those students find something they believe in or something they are incensed about, they do take action. We saw that with SOPA.

My mother and I were talking recently about how much times have changed. We both voted for Obama, and were really pleased when he came out in favor of same-sex marriage. Our reaction was, "About time, too." But while we've seen progress over the years, it has generally been a LONG time coming.

Most of the young people I know take gay rights as a given. Many don't even know that homosexuality was once classified as a mental disorder. But they don't have to. Because they know what's right. Of COURSE same-sex marriages should be legal! Why wouldn't they be?

Yeah, they aren't reading the newspapers. But that's not because they're stupid or they don't care. They've grown up on the internet. They have nearly immediate access to any information they want right at their fingertips. They don't always feel the need to know all the history of the issues. They don't care about the backstory, they care about today. They see these old guys running the government, and how those guys are way out of touch with reality, and they realize that if anything is going to change, it is up to them to do something about it. They don't want to have to wait generations, like we did.
posted by misha at 12:34 PM on May 11, 2012 [4 favorites]


Do you need investigative reporting when you have disillusioned, disgruntled or ethical people in these organizations/businesses?

Absolutely. You need someone reporting the story who does not have a vested interest. Someone who can check out whether the disillusioned, disgruntled and ethical folks have the straight dope or a skewed view. Someone who can broaden the scope, if needed, beyond what the insiders can see.
posted by Longtime Listener at 12:46 PM on May 11, 2012 [1 favorite]


Yeah, they aren't reading the newspapers. But that's not because they're stupid or they don't care. They've grown up on the internet. They have nearly immediate access to any information they want right at their fingertips.

My take on the article was that it agrees with you.
posted by shakespeherian at 12:53 PM on May 11, 2012 [1 favorite]


Someone who can check out whether the disillusioned, disgruntled and ethical folks have the straight dope or a skewed view.

Why can't that be the populace at large?

Asking questions, making phone calls, etc.

A "Leak" site reports that the local gas station is dumping waste oil in the woods - what more could a "journalist" accomplish beyond several dozen concerned citizens calling the station owner?
posted by mmrtnt at 12:56 PM on May 11, 2012


Why can't that be the populace at large?

It could be. You could have several dozen people randomly calling the station owner, and then checking out what the environmental laws say about dumping waste oil in the woods, and whether anyone has already complained to whatever agency governs such things. And whether that agency is doing anything about it. Then some of the people might walk out in the woods and check out whether there is, in fact, any oil being dumped out there. And if there is, did it really come from the station that Disgruntled Worker is accusing? It could be that other stations are also doing it. Maybe some of our populace will have the presence of mind to take some photos or video. It might occur to one of them to check out whether there are any wells nearby, or what creek that part of the woods drains into. And on and on.

The thing is, I already have a full-time job. At best I could do only a little piece of that work, and not really during regular business hours. I might discover after the fact that I duplicated the work that three other people already did. Meanwhile, a couple of other parts haven't been touched. So it would really help if someone were to coordinate the whole thing. And it would help even more if someone were to assemble all this information and present it in some kind of organized fashion. And somehow get it to the attention of people in the area.

Or we could pay an investigative reporter who has enough experience to do it efficiently. That person would then present the story through a news organization that already reaches a broad audience.
posted by Longtime Listener at 1:50 PM on May 11, 2012 [2 favorites]


I feel like this post is speaking to me.
posted by fungible at 4:41 PM on May 11, 2012 [5 favorites]


Longtime Listener: "Or we could pay an investigative reporter who has enough experience to do it efficiently. That person would then present the story through a news organization that already reaches a broad audience."

Except that's not what happens. The press feels so goddamn honored by the gas station owner giving them a tour of the stockroom that they completely abdicate their responsibility and write puff pieces about how great the gas station is.
posted by dunkadunc at 11:26 PM on May 11, 2012 [3 favorites]


Another example. The corporate press isn't a press, it's a propaganda machine.
posted by dunkadunc at 11:29 PM on May 11, 2012


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