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February 17, 2009 5:16 AM   Subscribe

The death of the news.
What is really threatened by the decline of newspapers and the related rise of online media is reporting -- on-the-ground reporting by trained journalists who know the subject, have developed sources on all sides, strive for objectivity and are working with editors who check their facts, steer them in the right direction and are a further check against unwarranted assumptions, sloppy thinking and reporting, and conscious or unconscious bias.
posted by adamvasco (94 comments total) 8 users marked this as a favorite

 
I think the only thing threatened by the decline of newspapers are salaries. All this other stuff - sources, reporting, facts, objectivity - can be found in equal abundance online.
posted by billysumday at 5:20 AM on February 17, 2009 [2 favorites]


Counterpoint: The fates of newspapers and reporting are orthogonal. That is to say, reporting was on the decline before the Internet was popular and now that reporting is on the rise, it is independent of the control-by-paycheck that oligarchs would like.

(I'd love to snarkily quote and lol@ one of the items in your list that trained journalists are so great at, but I can't figure out which one is funniest.)
posted by DU at 5:24 AM on February 17, 2009 [2 favorites]


I really don't think you could have read the article in four minutes.
posted by adamvasco at 5:25 AM on February 17, 2009 [6 favorites]


On this matter get used to seeing the term 'dead tree press' coming more and more into popular usage. Coined -(i believe) by Guido Fawkes. You saw it here first.
posted by numberstation at 5:27 AM on February 17, 2009


most people don't want objective reporting, they want what will reinforce their prejudices - and in fact, they will voraciously consume any literature that does that, even in the face of objective journalism that proves their beliefs are wrong

they want their own reality, not the news, and the internet does a better job of that than the newspapers ever considered doing

welcome to the age of high-tech barbarism and ignorance
posted by pyramid termite at 5:27 AM on February 17, 2009 [17 favorites]


Is there any real need to read the whole article. He solemnly intones his point multiple times in the first few paragraphs. Journalists Are All That Keep This Country Safe And Newspapers Are What Make Journalists Possible. The Death Of Newspapers Will DESTROY US ALL!

I'd bring up the old scribes vs widespread literacy analogy again, but does anyone even take this doomsaying seriously anymore? Who is there (that isn't part of the problem) that still thinks it's a great idea to have accountants and CEOs driving the national dialogue?
posted by DU at 5:32 AM on February 17, 2009 [6 favorites]


False Premise. If these behaviors were pervasive or even common in print media (the editor ideals are laughable) it would be a loss. As it stands a lazy and profit-driven fail-based model is reaping the whirlwind.

Online media has the advantage of having pre-abandoned any notions of objectivity, fact-checking, logical rigor or accountability. Thus, if we the consumers ever come to miss those things, we will have to pay for them - in opportunity, in cash, or by doing them our-credulous-selves.

Medium has nothing to do with responsibility.
posted by abulafa at 5:34 AM on February 17, 2009 [5 favorites]


Journalism as we know it is in crisis

What is in crisis is corporate media selling a shoddy product that people are sick of buying. If FAIR and Project Censored offer any indication, objective journalism is certainly not in crisis. There are hard-working journalists doing good work, but editorial/advertising keep it from getting published.

The crisis is imposed by, among other causes, corporate's censoring of the news, replacing it with talking heads repeating the opinions of their higher-ups.

Since this would not change by subsidizing corporate media, therefore, a media bailout is as bad an idea as our bailing out of Wall Street, in that the underlying product both offer will continue to be garbage, because there is and would continue to be no legal oversight to ensure an improvement in standards of honest objectivity, openness and quality.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 5:37 AM on February 17, 2009 [8 favorites]


Is there any real need to read the whole article.

Yes, yes there is. Give it a shot. You might learn something.
posted by modernnomad at 5:37 AM on February 17, 2009 [6 favorites]


Metafilter: Is there any real need to read the whole article?
posted by patricio at 5:38 AM on February 17, 2009 [19 favorites]


trained journalists who know the subject, have developed sources on all sides, strive for objectivity and are working with editors who check their facts, steer them in the right direction and are a further check against unwarranted assumptions, sloppy thinking and reporting, and conscious or unconscious bias.

There are maybe two stories per day in any given paper that satisfy these criteria. The rest of what is printed in newspapers is garbage of the if-it-bleeds-it-leads variety, or pop culture junk. I don't need a sports section, I don't need a style section, I don't need to know about rapes, murders, arsons, fires, assualts overnight. I don't need a rehash of the greatest hits of the police blotter.

Newspapers had their test during the Bush administration, and they failed. They chose to place greater value on access to officials than on investigating those officials. Had they passed that test, had they really earned the status that the constitution confers upon them, we would be discussing how the status quo is that newspapers do the heavy lifting and bloggers just offer commentary. But we aren't, and there's no going back.

And I don't care, and neither does anyone else.
posted by Pastabagel at 5:38 AM on February 17, 2009 [49 favorites]


As TFA points out, at the moment proper online journalism is parasitical upon print journalism. If you want to read investigative reporting or a professional foreign correspondent, you can do it on the website of the Guardian or the New York Times.

However, that doesn't necessarily mean that as print journalism fades away, proper journalism must fade with it. If print journalism fades to the level where there's nothing to parasitize anymore, online journals will have an incentive to do their investigations and hire their own correspondents.

Moreover, it's far from certain that print journalism will disappear altogether. Theatres still exist despite cinema. Cinemas still exist despite television. Radio still exists despite CDs and television. It's possible that print journalism will stabilize at a lower level. Or it could move onto DRM'd platforms like Kindle, or subscriber-based websites, where it can still make money.

There seems to be an unnecessary level of doomsaying to some of these articles. If print journalism vanishes entirely rather than just shrinking, and if online journalism doesn't respond by upping it's game, and if nobody manages to make subscriber services profitable in a world when subscriber services are the only way to get real journalism... then yes, we're looking at the Death of the News. But that's a lot of ifs.
posted by TheophileEscargot at 5:43 AM on February 17, 2009 [6 favorites]


You're right, I didn't read the entire article. Or rather, I have read different variations of this article, many times over. "Print newspapers are going out of business, and that means the end of journalism" stories are posted to the blue about twice a week. I've read my share to get the gist. If there is something groundbreaking and new in the article, then apologies, I'll read it in whole. But from the paragraph you excised it just seems old hat.
posted by billysumday at 5:50 AM on February 17, 2009 [2 favorites]


While I'm at it, I'm actually looking forward to the day when Microsoft adds an adblocker to Internet Explorer, and releases it with the adblocker enabled by default. Because Salon needs to go next:

Karl Marx's prediction that capitalism would end up devouring itself has not stood up well (although there's a bit of leg-nibbling going on right now)

What the hell is that statement doing in that story? It's sloppy, illogical, and nonsensical. There's leg nibbling going on "right now"? Really? Karl Marx wrote and died in the 19th century. The Great Depression happened 45 years after he died. If capitalism didn't eat itself then, it isn't going to now just because a few electronics stores are going out of business and baby boomers lost .

When people say that the media is biased, this is what they mean. It's okay, Salon, you can write that Karl Marx was wrong.

Or you can, you know, leave Karl Marx entirely out of an article about the transition of news gathering from print to online.

Good riddance to bad rubbish.
posted by Pastabagel at 5:51 AM on February 17, 2009 [2 favorites]


I'm sympathetic to the ideal of journalism -- people who are trained to investigate and write about what they've discovered. But as Blazecock and Pastbagel point out, newspapers have been failing to do this for decades, and spectacularly in 2003 when Judith Miller, one of journalism's "best and brightest" managed to invent ex nihilo a cause for invasion and the eventual occupation of Iraq.

But the author does say this:

As for the old media, it has not exactly always done a bang-up job of capturing reality. All too often it has been sclerotic, incompetent and driven by hidden corporatist, nationalist or reactionary agendas. The press's catastrophic failure to question the Bush administration's case for war in Iraq is the most glaring recent example, but there are many.

"Professionalism" can be a vice, evidenced by the pathologically cozy relationship between many bigwig Beltway reporters and their government sources. Huffing and puffing about interloping amateurs all too often conceals the fact that those amateurs know as much or more about the subject as the professionals, and are not subject to being bamboozled by "insiders" with an agenda. Academic Middle East analysts, most of whom probably never picked up the phone in their life, but know the region's language and its history, were resoundingly right about the Iraq war. The professional journalism brigade, with its access to high-level sources and people on the ground, was disgracefully wrong. And the Internet has greatly empowered such academics.


That makes this piece a hell of a lot more thoughtful than the run-of-the-mill ZOMG BLOGGERS IN PAJAMAS ARE RUINING THE NEWS!

But yeah, I can't think of any major American newspaper or news network that deserves any of my money these days. If they die off I won't shed any tears. I'll just hope British news services will open more bureaus back in America.
posted by bardic at 6:13 AM on February 17, 2009 [1 favorite]


On this matter get used to seeing the term 'dead tree press' coming more and more into popular usage. Coined -(i believe) by Guido Fawkes. You saw it here first.

I first heard "dead tree media" in college first, 18 years ago.
posted by Foosnark at 6:38 AM on February 17, 2009


Is there any real need to read the whole article.

Are you full of ignorant snap-judgments.
posted by Potomac Avenue at 6:42 AM on February 17, 2009


Could someone who thinks that actual news reportage takes place online point me to some examples of specific instances where a reporter for a news blog that is unconnected to old media actually left their desk, went out somewhere and saw something or talked to someone that scooped the print or TV media? I don't mean Drudge-report style "Set up a muck raking site and people will email you exclusives", I mean door knocking, photo-snapping, library-digging research.

I'm not saying they don't exist, I really just can't think of any examples.
posted by Potomac Avenue at 6:46 AM on February 17, 2009 [9 favorites]


> I first heard "dead tree media" in college first, 18 years ago.

Janine Melnitz: You're very handy, I can tell. I bet you like to read a lot, too.
Dr. Egon Spengler: Print is dead.

posted by The Card Cheat at 6:52 AM on February 17, 2009 [5 favorites]


That makes this piece a hell of a lot more thoughtful than the run-of-the-mill ZOMG BLOGGERS IN PAJAMAS ARE RUINING THE NEWS!

It also makes the piece a muddled mess. What is really in danger here? The newspapers or the news? Why do we care that an old industry is being replaced by a new one? Newspapers never made money on journalism. They made money on ads and classifieds. Classifieds went to craigslist and ebay years ago. Advertising is disappearing as the businessness that traditionally advertised are themselves being retired. People don't flood to the Macy's Three Day Sale the way they did in 1987, eventually Macy's caught on and stopped shouting about it in ads. Oh well.

So from the business standpoint, the writing has been on the wall for about ten years.

But there's another trend that this article doesn't address that is the real reason people get their news from blogs or wire services rather than from the web versions of newspapers. In the last ten years, spin has been perfected. And by spin, I referring to the target of reporting knowing so thoroughly the boundaries of journalism as practiced by major newspapers and TV outlets that they can artificially manage the reporting and create a narrative in the newspaper.

In other words, spin is reverse engineered journalism. If I know how reporters work, if I know they always look in these places and ask these kinds of questions, I can set up the conditions and environment long before so that the reporter doing their usual work only learns what I want them to learn. I don't have to feed them a story, I just feed them an artificial world the can investigate and write about.

Traditional media can't deal with this. And until they can institutionalize a way to cut through or negate spin, they won't be as effective as a blogger writing "The President said X, but this other source said 'not X'."
posted by Pastabagel at 6:53 AM on February 17, 2009 [3 favorites]


... strive for objectivity and are working with editors who check their facts ....

Depends.
Depends on the paper.
I live in Oklahoma.
The paper here is terrible and insanely slanted, and was put together by right-wing biased individuals.
posted by 5imian at 6:55 AM on February 17, 2009


Could someone who thinks that actual news reportage takes place online point me to some examples of specific instances where a reporter for a news blog that is unconnected to old media actually left their desk, went out somewhere and saw something or talked to someone that scooped the print or TV media?

Kevin Sites was paid by Yahoo! to report on the ground from Iraq.

Sure, there isn't a lot of this, but newspapers aren't all dead yet. As they die, we'll find new institutions to supply what we valued in newspapers. Or we'll turn increasingly to alternative old institutions, e.g. NPR, BBC. We won't, however, start valuing newspapers just because someone told us we should. That's just not how society works.
posted by scottreynen at 6:56 AM on February 17, 2009


Online journalism is still in its infancy. Guttenberg gave us the printing press 570 years ago, do you think newspapers had their shit together 550 years ago? I think online journalism has a way to go, but has also made great strides, and the biggest problem is getting newspapers to treat the online edition as their premiere edition, newspapers will fade, without ever disappearing, serving a niche of people who happen to not be online at the time.
posted by furtive at 7:02 AM on February 17, 2009


One point about bloggers. Much of the success of sites like TPM, Crooks and Liars, etc. was bourne out of their ideological opposition to the adminstration. It will be interesting to see how well those sites represent online journalism now.
posted by Pastabagel at 7:06 AM on February 17, 2009 [1 favorite]


I like how the NY Times is starting to add a lot of little 4 minute videos and audio slide shows and even regular slide shows to their website. If they printed a skinny version of their paper every day for a discounted price, and put all of that content plus the fancy a/v bells and whistles on their website, I would gladly pay $10/month or something to access it. Okay, maybe $5.
posted by billysumday at 7:08 AM on February 17, 2009


Real reporting was replaced with Joe The Plumber months ago.
posted by jamstigator at 7:10 AM on February 17, 2009 [1 favorite]


And, yeah, I was just going to say that as far as investigative journalism goes, TPM has real sources and does real reporting, and does it much better than the dead-tree papers. Their only problem is that they are so small they can only concentrate on one big story at a time, which may not eventually be such a bad thing - in the future, you have a large variety of sites concentrating on just a few big stories or a few big topics. Also, politico.com does a lot of original reporting, all online.
posted by billysumday at 7:10 AM on February 17, 2009 [2 favorites]


As they die, we'll find new institutions to supply what we valued in newspapers.

That's optimism, not necessity. Just as capitalism is not infallible, neither is our free press. The right to say anything we want is useless without a cadre of people who care that about seeking out the physical truth to have an opinion about, and a concerned or educated segment of citizens who give a shit. What none of these arguments seem to point out is that the middle class adults who traditionally would drive demand for greater amounts of investigation and eye-witness accounts are more concerned with hammering their foregone conclusions into textboxes or watching Perez Hilton poke his tits into people's faces on the red carpet. It's not necessarily our fault--as this evenhanded Salon article points out, the newspapers let us down with cronyism and pandering, but in fact that is what a large segment of our population wants. We might as well start receiving press releases directly from the government now, right? They control everything anyway and it's all just like, their opinion man.
posted by Potomac Avenue at 7:13 AM on February 17, 2009 [3 favorites]


Billysumday: Politico is a print weekly magazine with reporters and a staff here in DC who are excellent at bugging politicians until they crack. They make money by running ads in the print version.

Could you give me an example of TPM's on-the-ground reporters? I do remember a report about going to various McCain campaign headquarters and finding them empty...that was decent, was that on TPM?
posted by Potomac Avenue at 7:18 AM on February 17, 2009


Does Politico print only in DC? I've never seen it in my local bookstore. Thought they were an internet-only mag.

TPM did a lot of investigative work in the DOJ attorney firings scandal of a couple of years ago with Rove/Gonzalez kicking out liberal attorneys.
posted by billysumday at 7:24 AM on February 17, 2009


That was FiveThirtyEight, Potomac. But they've transitioned from being a "stats and analysis" site to a full-time Washington-based site that seems to be doing their own full-time dedicated reporting as well.
posted by Shepherd at 7:25 AM on February 17, 2009


As a newsgroup, we are the new news. We are the news.
posted by doctorschlock at 7:26 AM on February 17, 2009


I am obsessed with the TV show House but sources say I have run out of scotch. Update at 11.
posted by Potomac Avenue at 7:29 AM on February 17, 2009 [1 favorite]


I try to avoid these threads because they make me both suicidal and homicidal, but here's the way I think people need to look at this:

Take a strong regional paper like the Des Moines Register. (Just picked their name from a hat to make my point.)
They have reporters on staff who cover all aspects of the community, like say, the guy who has to cover the monthly sewer committee meeting in Dubuque. Now often, no story will come from that meeting, but the public is able, through the reporter, to keep an eye on the meeting and make sure someone's brother in law doesn't get handed a sweet no bid contract. If the Register is gone and no one covers that monthly meeting, who knows what shenanigans local officials will get up to? You think bloggers will cover the deadly dull minutia of local government? The motives of any blogger who does step forward has gotta be suspect.

My point is, it's all very well to get on your high horse and spout off about how the corrupt dinosaurs failed us on Iraq and who needs them and so on, but you're missing the big picture: journalism is a vital part of democracy, practiced not just in the august halls of the White House and the paneled conference rooms of the NYT, but in crappy little city halls and over lunch with the local tax assessor. It's not always perfect, often it's not even good, but it's crucial to the way this country runs. How is a country to govern itself if no one is watching the government and reporting back to the public?
posted by CunningLinguist at 7:37 AM on February 17, 2009 [31 favorites]


We might as well start receiving press releases directly from the government now, right?

If we received press releases directly from the government and businesses then today's "journalists" would mostly be out of jobs.
posted by TheOnlyCoolTim at 7:38 AM on February 17, 2009 [2 favorites]


Yes, TOCT, that kind of empty statement of cynicism is exactly what I mean by "the middle class adults who traditionally would drive demand for greater amounts of investigation and eye-witness accounts are more concerned with hammering their foregone conclusions into textboxes." It's not like that yet, but it could be, and believing that it doesn't matter whether anyone independent is there to viddy with their eyeballers what is occurring in the press releases is tragic.

As consumers of online journalism, we should be demanding that the bigger blogs hire the reporters and photogs that came from print who have the connections and tenacity to go to meetings and travel around the world to rub our noses as closely as possible in the experiential shit of the toilet bowl of political life. Or we could rehash some relativist platitudes and assume that it will all work out in the end. Pack another soma-hit in the interbong please, I'm starting to feel something again...
posted by Potomac Avenue at 7:54 AM on February 17, 2009 [1 favorite]


Another shift happening right now, not recognized in these articles, is on-the-ground reporting becoming less valuable, as we increasingly have direct access to the "ground." For example, I don't really need a reporter to go interview an Iraqi when that Iraqi is publishing her own blog. It's going to be a long, long time before that makes on-the-ground reporting completely unnecessary, but we do seem to be heading in that direction.

You think bloggers will cover the deadly dull minutia of local government?

Eventually, yes. I've actually attended small town local government meetings with my laptop to take notes. It's more interesting than you might expect. Right now it's too difficult to get information on such meetings (something as simple as a schedule can be elusive), but we already see pushes for increased access to federal government meetings (e.g.), so it doesn't seem unreasonable to expect that to eventually happen at lower levels of governement.

We might as well start receiving press releases directly from the government now, right?

If we received press releases directly from the government and businesses then today's "journalists" would mostly be out of jobs.


Indeed.
posted by scottreynen at 7:54 AM on February 17, 2009 [1 favorite]


I could almost buy this story, but. He claims that bloggers don't even try to mask their lack of objectivity, which implies that "journalists" do. So both are opinionated, but only one is honest about it? I'll take the honesty, thanks. He claims that it's harder for readers to skip over articles in print media that they don't agree with than online. But I do that all the time, and I'm sure lots of others do as well. The net didn't make customized news possible, it just made it easier. People have always ignored views they don't agree with, and they always will.

My local paper is full of recycled articles (it's part of Gannett, so read it today in USA Today, read it tomorrow in the Democrat & Chronicle). It's (greatly depleted) editorial section follows this formula: (Some bad thing/person/etc.) is bad, so we should have more of (Some good thing/person/etc.). Newspapers were allowed to suck simply because they had no competition. On a level playing field they're discovering, decades too late, that quality actually does matter.
posted by tommasz at 8:05 AM on February 17, 2009


This was a very interesting article. I think that the non-profit newspaper may be the end result in the end, and I think that national journalism would probably be the better for it.

I think that Gary Kamiya has a pretty rosy view of the current state of journalism. Local journalism has been dead for a long time in most smaller cities and towns. I think the last time I saw an investigative piece in a smaller local newspaper was in the mid 1990s. Most local newspapers these days cover fires and murders and that's about it. If you live in New York, you can get good coverage of City Hall, local politics, all those things, but most cities and towns get nothing.

I think the biggest problem with the current state of journalism is the suppression of minority points of view in the name of objectivity and editors deciding what merits being reported. You won't see reporting about the "Prison-Industrial Complex" in mainstream media outlets, because the topic has a built-in point of view. But this doesn't mean that the ever increasing incarceration of American's is not an important story.

There are issues and events that are only covered in detail by a small number of people who care about them deeply. They exist outside of the mainstream media, and they spend years working on stories and collecting sources. They do this because they are not objective. They do this because of a sense of outrage over an injustice, or because they feel like an important topic is being ignored. The problem with this approach is that facts that they gather are open to interpretation. A fine example of this is Gary Webb's reporting on the CIA's connection to crack cocaine.

This story was only covered in any detail in one newspaper. Most of the newspapers nationwide responded by trying to discredit the story. Enough time has passed that it has become clear that many of the facts that were reported in the story were true, the problems with the story are the inferences that were made by Gary Webb based on these facts. If other newspapers had chosen to do their own investigations based on what was revealed, there would be much more information available today about what the actual connections were between the CIA and drug trafficking at that time.

So why didn't other newspapers cover the story? I don't think that it's because the story wouldn't sell newspapers. I think that it was just too far out of the worldview of the editors and reporters of that time. In order to accept that this story might have merit, they would have to question too many of their assumptions about the way that things work.
posted by jefeweiss at 8:09 AM on February 17, 2009 [4 favorites]


reporting -- on-the-ground reporting by trained journalists who know the subject, have developed sources on all sides, strive for objectivity and are working with editors who check their facts

I would be interested in purchasing this product. Unfortunately, I have not found it for sale.
posted by Malor at 8:14 AM on February 17, 2009


Looks like I threw an extra "in the end" in there.

@CunningLinguist For every Des Moines Register there are 20 papers that have one reporter that covers fires, car crashes, and murders. With the economic downturn he's probably the editor and covers local sports too. There's just no money in sewer committee meetings.
posted by jefeweiss at 8:16 AM on February 17, 2009


God I hope they take their smug, self-important attitudes with them. These journalists think they're gods gift to humanity, when in fact most of their reporting is vapid nonsense. Frequently journalists don't know what they're talking about, and often times their "sources" are just insiders who use them to leak strategic information. When it comes to Washington DC the relationship between journalists and "sources" is highly corrupt. Sources use journalists to push their agendas, and journalists use sources to get Jucy gossip and insider access. What gets reported is what someone wants reported, and journalists will sometimes play both sides in order to drum up controversy... but hardly ever report something that no one is pushing.

What about outside the beltway? Well, frankly I don't think most people give a crap about local politics, although I suppose it depends on how big your jurisdiction. I'm sure people in L.A. pay more attention to the city council elections then people Peoria, IL.

But you know, it really was kind of surprising to realize just how highly the field of journalism holds itself in esteem. Like how upset they were after the White house Correspondents dinner after Colbert mocked them for stuff that I thought was so obvious.

And of course the whole concept of impartiality is absurd. No one can be impartial. The truth is, you have a choice between listening to someone who has an agenda and someone who has either unexamined biases or is just being dishonest about them.

And then there are the institutional biases in the media, etc.

These people need to get over themselves.
posted by delmoi at 8:20 AM on February 17, 2009 [1 favorite]


Indeed, sensationalism and silliness in communication; not good:


There are maybe two stories per day in any given paper that satisfy these criteria.


Nonsense. I've written them on a regular basis, worked in newsrooms where the great majority of reporters did so, as well.

The rest of what is printed in newspapers is garbage of the if-it-bleeds-it-leads variety, or pop culture junk.

Demonstrably false.

I don't need a sports section,


So? Plenty of people do.

I don't need a style section

See above.

I don't need to know about rapes, murders, arsons, fires, assualts overnight. I don't need a rehash of the greatest hits of the police blotter.


Demonstrably a small part of virtually all newspapers.

Newspapers had their test during the Bush administration, and they failed.


Lots did. Some didn't. McClatchy and others did a ton of good work relative to any number of important things during the Bush administration.

That aside, ever failed at anything or done less well than you did in subsequent efforts? I guess that means the prospect of you learning from that failure or shortcoming is zero, zilch and nil.

They chose to place greater value on access to officials than on investigating those officials. Had they passed that test, had they really earned the status that the constitution confers upon them, we would be discussing how the status quo is that newspapers do the heavy lifting and bloggers just offer commentary.


We might and we might not. Who's to say what we would be discussing? The thought that newspaper coverage during the Bush administration has sealed its fate is debatable at best. TV was little better and arguably worse; It ain't going down the tubes.

But we aren't,

Some of us are.

and there's no going back.

That's one person's opinion, the opinion of someone with an approach of sensationalism and half-truths, at least in this case.

I wonder if this was written as it was to point out that shoddy, ignorant writing is at best not something to be valued or taken seriously.
posted by ambient2 at 8:21 AM on February 17, 2009 [1 favorite]


With fewer watchdogs, you get less barking.

Much of the carnage of the ongoing media industry can't be measured or seen: corruption undiscovered, events not witnessed, tips about problems that never reach anyone's ears because those ears have left the newsroom.
posted by CunningLinguist at 8:21 AM on February 17, 2009


Could you give me an example of TPM's on-the-ground reporters? I do remember a report about going to various McCain campaign headquarters and finding them empty

I think the Empty McCain campaign headquarters was from fivethirtyeight, Talking points memo has two full time reporters in DC, Elana Schor and Matt Cooper.

As consumers of online journalism, we should be demanding that the bigger blogs hire the reporters and photogs that came from print who have the connections and tenacity to go to meetings and travel around the world to rub our noses as closely as possible in the experiential shit of the toilet bowl of political life.

Well, that's exactly what happened with Matt Cooper, he is actually a veteran reporter.

Seriously the whole "Blogs just recycle material from the MSM" is seriously played out and obsolete.
posted by delmoi at 8:32 AM on February 17, 2009


I think the biggest problem with the current state of journalism is the suppression of minority points of view in the name of objectivity and editors deciding what merits being reported. You won't see reporting about the "Prison-Industrial Complex" in mainstream media outlets, because the topic has a built-in point of view. But this doesn't mean that the ever increasing incarceration of American's is not an important story.

What are you talking about? That's from a series of articles on incarceration in the US in the NYT. Just because you don't make an effort to read some of the leading newspapers anymore doesn't mean they don't contain some valuable things.
posted by modernnomad at 8:35 AM on February 17, 2009


Pastabagel: Traditional media can't deal with this. And until they can institutionalize a way to cut through or negate spin, they won't be as effective as a blogger writing "The President said X, but this other source said 'not X'."

But the problem is that the bloggers are mired in the same morass of spin-driven information. How many times a week do we see a "science" post on metafilter which is basically a single-link to the NYT, Guardian, or New Scientist?

Just as an example, the NYT Magazine's "What Do Women Really Want" was echoed on just about every blog and community I read. How many linked to the primary sources published by any of the people interviewed? None. How many contacted the researchers for primary sources? None. How many extended invitations to those researchers to do online interviews? None. So we had almost two dozen communities engaged in extended discussion and debate framed by a single author working on contract for a big media organization, and no communities engaged in a significant examination of the facts as portrayed by the article.

Even reading activist blogs I get a dozen aggregated MSM articles for every coverage of a major conference or demonstration. When liberal bloggers cover the alternative news, it's almost always what the opposition is saying about, you guessed it, another MSM pieces.

"The President said X, but this other source said 'not X'." doesn't do us any good if both of those sources come to us through the same filter.

The community of journalism is seriously, perhaps fatally flawed, but I see little progress by "new media" and blogging to do the primary source research that is needed to provide a viable alternative.
posted by KirkJobSluder at 8:41 AM on February 17, 2009 [3 favorites]


delmoi: Seriously the whole "Blogs just recycle material from the MSM" is seriously played out and obsolete.

It will become obsolete when the volume of material not derived from the MSM rises out of the single-digits. Until then, you are just selling snake oil.
posted by KirkJobSluder at 8:47 AM on February 17, 2009 [1 favorite]


This is some of the stuff you are shitting on with your hilariously broad brush delmoi. Just so you know.


They just announced the winners of this year's Polk awards, more prestigious than the Pulitzer:

Two New York Times correspondents will share the George Polk Award for Foreign Reporting. Husband-and-wife team Barry Bearak and Celia W. Dugger, both previous Polk Award winners and co-bureau chiefs in Johannesburg, South Africa, risked their freedom and their lives in Zimbabwe to expose the violence that shook that country in the wake of disputed elections as the corrupt government of President Robert Mugabe clung to power. Even after Bearak, who is also the winner of a Pulitzer Prize, spent five days in jail for “committing journalism,” the reporters continued to file dozens of stories that painted a vivid picture of the repression, disease and hunger that still torment the once-promising African nation.

Paul Salopek of the Chicago Tribune will receive the George Polk Award for International Reporting for uncovering the rarely publicized but more controversial aspects of America’s war on terror in the Horn of Africa, an expanse that includes Kenya, Ethiopia, Djibouti, Somalia, Sudan and Eritrea. In three reports from remote and lawless regions, he described the beleaguered efforts of the United States military to pre-empt an anticipated surge of radical Islamist activity. His accounts also depicted growing anti-American sentiment and accusations of secret rendition and prison programs in the region. A two-time Pulitzer Prize winner, Salopek himself was beaten and imprisoned while covering the conflict in Sudan in 2006, enduring a nine-day hunger strike to protest prison conditions. He and two colleagues were freed following intervention by U.S. government officials including then-Senator Barack Obama, who advocated for Salopek from Chad when he was not granted a visa to enter Sudan.

Former Polk Award- and Pulitzer Prize-winner David Barstow of The New York Times will receive the George Polk Award for National Reporting. His two-part series, “Message Machine,” documented the way in which the Bush administration waged a covert campaign to transform retired military officers working as analysts for television and radio networks into defense-industry rainmakers who influenced the awarding of contracts for military equipment used in the Iraq War, while also influencing public opinion.

The George Polk Award for Military Reporting will be bestowed upon the Seattle Post-Intelligencer’s chief investigative reporter Eric Nalder for his two-part series, “Demoted to Private: America’s Military Housing Disaster.” Nalder, also a Pulitzer Prize winner, revealed that the Defense Department, after conducting little or no due diligence, awarded a billion dollars in contracts to a politically connected consortium as part of an effort to privatize military housing construction. The result was the loss of millions of taxpayer dollars after a then-Dallas-based company in the consortium failed to construct housing it was slated to complete in Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Massachusetts, Missouri and Washington.

The George Polk Award for Local Reporting will go to Jim Schaefer and M.L. Elrick of the Detroit Free Press for investigative reporting that led to the resignation and jailing of Detroit Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick. The two unearthed graphic text messages and other evidence revealing that the mayor, while testifying in a police whistle-blower case, lied under oath about a sexual relationship he had with his chief of staff. To break the case open, the reporters filed a Freedom of Information Act lawsuit that was heard by the Michigan Supreme Court. The investigation eventually led to the discovery of a secret deal struck by the mayor in which $8.4 million in taxpayer money was used to settle the whistler-blower case in exchange for destroying the incriminating messages. Kilpatrick, who must repay $1 million, spent 99 days in prison after pleading guilty to two felonies and no contest to a third. His aide also pleaded guilty and was jailed on two felony counts.

Paul Pringle of the Los Angeles Times will receive the George Polk Award for Labor Reporting. His work revealed potential corruption within the nation’s fastest-growing labor union. Pringle exposed the fact that hundreds of thousands of dollars were flowing from the 160,000 mostly low-wage members of the Los Angeles chapter of the Service Employees International Union (SEIU) and a related charity to firms owned by family members of the local’s president. The coverage triggered the firing of the Union official and the launch of federal investigations, which remain underway. In addition, Pringle’s work fueled legal inquiries that spread across the state and into Michigan, where the president of another SEIU chapter also was ousted.

The George Polk Award for Justice Reporting will go to Ryan Gabrielson and Paul Giblin for their five-part series, “Reasonable Doubt,” published in Mesa, Arizona’s East Valley Tribune. Gabrielson, still a reporter at the Tribune, and Giblin, who now reports for The Arizona Guardian, scrutinized Sheriff Joe Arpaio’s campaign against illegal immigrants in Phoenix and other parts of the state’s Maricopa County. They reported blatant violations of federal regulations intended to prevent racial profiling, and they exposed slow responses to emergencies, lax criminal enforcement and suspiciously high rates of overtime by the police department. While Arpaio continues to appear on the Fox Reality Channel’s “Smile … You’re Under Arrest!” the Tribune report is being used by the Arizona state legislature to review anti-immigrant policies.

The George Polk Award for Magazine Reporting will be presented to investigative reporter Richard Behar for his article, “China Storms Africa,” published in Fast Company, the innovative business magazine. Behar, who won a Polk Award in 1995, detailed the size and the scope of China's drive to invest in sub-Saharan Africa, which encompasses 49 countries and represents one-fifth of the earth’s landmass, in order to acquire the raw materials it needs for manufacturing. He equated China’s aggressiveness in the attainment of these resources to a parasite that “invades and depletes its host” and characterized it as “one of the most bare-knuckled resource grabs the world has ever seen.”

Winning the George Polk Award for Environmental Reporting are Susanne Rust and Meg Kissinger of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. Their six-part series, “Chemical Fallout: A Journal Sentinel Watchdog Report,” castigated the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for failing to monitor, regulate and ultimately ban potential toxins found in everyday materials, from “microwave safe” plastics to baby bottles. Their reports about chemicals such as bisphenol A, or BPA, which causes neurological and developmental damage in laboratory animals, reverberated from the halls of Congress to homes and schools across America.

The George Polk Award for Sports Reporting will go to Ken Armstrong, who previously won a Polk Award in 1999, and Nick Perry, both of the Seattle Times, for “Victory and Ruins.” Their four-part series focused on the tainted triumph of the University of Washington's 2001 Rose Bowl football team and revealed that at least two dozen team members were allowed to continue to play despite having been arrested – some for violent felonies – while enrolled at the school. Exposing the exceptions that were made and the crimes that were ignored, Armstrong and Perry provided an incisive look into the often, permissive culture of college football.

The George Polk Award for Television Reporting will be presented to CBS News “60 Minutes” correspondent and Emmy Award-winner Scott Pelley, producer Solly Granatstein and co-producer Nicole Young for “The Wasteland.” In this segment, the trio divulged how some American companies that are paid to recycle electronic waste have instead dumped it in China, which has led to environmental despoliation and severe health risks. After the “60 Minutes” crew tracked a Denver recycling company’s shipment to southern China, the firm lost its contract and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) began investigating dozens of other suspect recycling businesses.
posted by CunningLinguist at 8:48 AM on February 17, 2009 [23 favorites]


If the journos bemoaning print media's apocalyptic death were more honest about their agendas, they'd post their resumes at stories' conclusions.

What most scares them is not blogging's subjectivity, but the extraordinary transformation of news that is taking place.

Breaking story?
OLD PRINT MEDIA: The following day it is summarized in a newspaper.
TODAY: Instantly, the story is twittered by witnesses, blogged from countless perspectives, captured in stunning photo essays, discussed in forums, recounted/updated by the minute at news sites, translated into scores of languages, posted as YouTube video, given dedicated websites, and much more. We "gather" news in ways never before imagined.

Could we ever go back to the ways of Old Print Media, the horse-and-wagon of our emergent news dissemination industry?
posted by terranova at 8:48 AM on February 17, 2009


Pastabagel: ...I don't need to know about rapes, murders, arsons, fires, assualts overnight. I don't need a rehash of the greatest hits of the police blotter.

I was not aware that having your head firmly up your ass when it comes to the state of your local community is a virtue.
posted by KirkJobSluder at 8:52 AM on February 17, 2009 [1 favorite]


USA Battle Plans for Newspapers and news from France whilest in UK Guardian Media Group (GMG) on Friday announced a salary freeze for the 2009-2010 fiscal year.
posted by adamvasco at 8:56 AM on February 17, 2009


terranova: Who breaks the slow simmering stories that happen in courtrooms, school cafeterias, and city council chambers over the course of months?
posted by KirkJobSluder at 9:07 AM on February 17, 2009 [1 favorite]


While the internet has time on it's side, how many rush-to-publish stories have follow-up retractions and corrections online versus in print? Yes, there's still the crunch to get things to the press in time, but you still have a window of time to get one side, then search for evidence to support or detract from the original information. Online, I have the feeling that the scoop is more important than validation. Then again, sketchy sources are made real through the press.

On the flip side: most papers try to cater to a broad spectrum of people with one edition containing all sections (local and world news through sports and fashion, business and want-ads), while most news-based websites cater to one segment. Could papers survive by segmenting themselves and getting more direct support for what really matters to certain people? Or would the closet stylistias get annoyed that they can't read about who's wearing what, while appearing to follow the events in the middle east?

As for the watch-dogs in the news: it seems that if it's really important, there's already a motivated bunch of people making noise. Of course, the noise could just be static, uninformed and upset, versus the journalists who know some background, know what can be achieved, and what shouldn't happen.
posted by filthy light thief at 9:10 AM on February 17, 2009


As an example of why comprehensive coverage is important, long before Kitzmiller et al v. Dover Area School Board went to trial, long before the defendants were coached by Discovery Institute lawyers, the defendants went on the record in meetings and in newspaper interviews as to their intentions to get creationism and prayer in the school. This early evidence became important when defendants on the stand were confronted with their own on-the-record statements. Arguably this evidence was critical to the judicial finding that the School Board lied about not trying to teach creationism.
posted by KirkJobSluder at 9:22 AM on February 17, 2009


So, where’s Clark Kent gonna work?

“All this other stuff - sources, reporting, facts, objectivity - can be found in equal abundance online.”
and
“ Newspapers had their test during the Bush administration, and they failed.”
(et.al.)
Plus
“Could someone who thinks that actual news reportage takes place online point me to some examples of specific instances where a reporter for a news blog that is unconnected to old media actually left their desk, went out somewhere and saw something or talked to someone that scooped the print or TV media?”

Yeah, local/regional journalism. Or what CunningLinguist sed.
It’s funny because there is no money in reporting your local sewer meeting or on what your local school board is doing.
And yet - that’s what really makes a difference in your life. Oh, sure, you care about Iraq and Bush and the economy, but what, you’re going to pick up a phone and grill Obama about where your money is going over a story you saw?
Ain’t gonna happen. But if the school board starts deciding to ban certain books or start lining their pockets or whatnot - you need someone at those meetings who knows the history in order to spot what’s up.
And really - in Illinois anyway - that’s where most of your property tax money is going anyway, so it’s the bulk of your tax money (even if you rent).
And you can call up the local school board president and grill him or her on what’s going on with your money over a story you saw in the local paper.

But yeah, local papers have been pretty much sold out. The one out here just recently pulled up stakes and left.

“And of course the whole concept of impartiality is absurd. No one can be impartial. The truth is, you have a choice between listening to someone who has an agenda and someone who has either unexamined biases or is just being dishonest about them.”

Ridiculous. Were that so objective observation of any kind would be impossible. You wouldn’t even have intelligence analysis, it’d be opinion. There would be no such thing as a trained observer. Reconnaissance would be useless. “Jones - what’d ya see? Two trucks? Three?” “Well, sir, I think the enemy is going to try a flanking attack.” “Uh, yeah, whatever. How many trucks?” “Sir, *I* think we need to consider the ramifications of blah blah blah.”

If it goes online and into blogs than it’ll be online journalism. Who cares if it’s print or whatever? You need a disinterested observer keeping an eye on things. Whether that’s online or in print. Blogs - if we’re speaking of them as an interested party’s web log - aren’t going to do that. If we’re saying Joe Blogger will sit at a school board meeting or a planning and zoning meeting or whatever that he has no personal stake in (he doesn’t live there and has no opinion himself) then, given he’s got some oversight, he’s a journalist.
I mean hell “blog” or “journal” same thing really.

The key is to maintain people’s attention on public affairs whether they like it or not. Someone has to keep an eye on what the government is doing - ESPECIALLY at the lower levels where you can do something about things from the grassroots.
Otherwise - as Jefferson sez - Congress and Assemblies, judges and governors shall all become wolves.

That’s the objective. Everything else is an argument over matters of taste.
I could care less about ink on my hands if I know someone is reporting accurate non-biased information on what my representatives are doing with my money. How much are they spending? Why do they say they’re doing that? What’s the policy they’re seeking to make?
It doesn’t matter if their words are true or not, we can hold them accountable by them. “Hey Joe Schoolsuper - you said you were spending $500K on new school computers. Where are they?” “Uh, I never said that.” “Well, it’s here in the (paper/blog/etc.) isn’t it? I talked to Joe (reporter/blogger, whatever) he says he’s got it on tape, you saying it at a school board meeting. There were other witnesses there. So where are the computers?”
If the Superintendent or whomever is siphoning money out of the public funds, you can spot it. You have, at least, a basis from which to ask questions. All information is useful. Even lies. You print the lies, someone asks questions why something doesn’t add up. And it goes from there.

Investigative journalism is a luxury. It’s your job to keep an eye on government. The fourth estate - whomever that may be - just hands you the info. Let’s not pretend they’re failing at their jobs if you don’t want to get off your ass.
posted by Smedleyman at 9:29 AM on February 17, 2009 [1 favorite]


Media's business model is selling advertising not creating interesting content.

If people aren't prepared to pay for news, they'll get poo. ie stop bitching, it's our fault.
posted by Samuel Farrow at 9:42 AM on February 17, 2009


The George Polk Award for Television Reporting will be presented to CBS News “60 Minutes” correspondent and Emmy Award-winner Scott Pelley, producer Solly Granatstein and co-producer Nicole Young for “The Wasteland.” In this segment, the trio divulged how some American companies that are paid to recycle electronic waste have instead dumped it in China, which has led to environmental despoliation and severe health risks. After the “60 Minutes” crew tracked a Denver recycling company’s shipment to southern China, the firm lost its contract and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) began investigating dozens of other suspect recycling businesses.

I loved that story. Not that it couldn't happen with bloggers or a blogging network, but I doubt a blogger is going to be that dedicated and have the investigative resources and connections, make the flights overseas and live to tell about it. Perhaps I'm wrong though, and there'd be a connection between investigative bloggers here and in China, and the story would get broken that way.

I'd love to be wrong. It certainly would be interesting. But even assuming the rise of some system like this, the decentralization of the reporting of these stories brings out the real challenge, which is getting all kinds of people to pay attention to it. A lot of different types of people are now familiar with that 60 minutes story. But if it shows up as just another link on popurls, it'll literally have about 6 hours of traction, then fade into nothingness.
posted by cashman at 9:44 AM on February 17, 2009 [1 favorite]


there is no money in reporting your local sewer meeting or on what your local school board is doing. And yet - that’s what really makes a difference in your life.

This is the tragedy that all the "but we have Twitter now" people simply fail to understand. By the time their money has been stolen by the mayor's cousin and their bridges fall down because there was hanky panky in the permit department and school books have been banned, it will be too late.
posted by CunningLinguist at 9:47 AM on February 17, 2009 [5 favorites]


Most small-town papers these days do a really shitty job of covering local news. I'm sure there are a few good ones, but my experience is that they're mostly crap, and mostly interested in re-printing wire stories and "lifestyle" pieces that get people to pick it up for the coupons on Sundays. Beyond that, not unlike the Chris Matthews types in DC, they pretty much make a career off of cozying up to local authority figures and then sucking up to them in order to get (highly biased) breaks.

It ain't tragedy, it's farce. Newspapers big and small put themselves in this position by focusing on profits rather than the public good. And now they're fucked.

And it doesn't help that smaller papers could once rely on advertising and classifieds while these days craigslist does a better and cheaper job.

I guess they still have obits. But those only matter when people, ya know, read the freakin' local paper in the first place.
posted by bardic at 10:00 AM on February 17, 2009


Is there any real need to read the whole article.

Yes, yes there is. Give it a shot. You might learn something.


Inverted pyramid style -- most important stuff comes first -- dreck comes after...
posted by Alexandra Kitty at 10:29 AM on February 17, 2009


This is the tragedy that all the "but we have Twitter now" people simply fail to understand. By the time their money has been stolen by the mayor's cousin and their bridges fall down because there was hanky panky in the permit department and school books have been banned, it will be too late.

I pretty much agree with you on this, but it seems to me there's another side to this issue, policy wise. and I think you're predicting a far more devastating future for newspapers than I see as possible.

for instance, it's clear people don't want the mewling passive press we've seen so much of (along with the incredible journalism you've mentioned) these past 8 years. It's also clear that people don't understand how much is at stake with the erosion of the 4th estate. So how could a paper give people the more hard hitting news they need, and might even want? Well, they could encourage and publish more hard hitting news, more proper investigative journalism.

But as has been mentioned, editors and owners are invested in maintaining white house press access, city hall access. further, they're beholden to advertisers and shareholders. they're in an essentially impossible position, one that has developed such a long history of burying stories and discouraging viewpoints that it's difficult to see the way out. To watch "All The President's Men" now, you'd think you were watching a story about a newspaper from Mars for all the leeway Woodward and Bernstein were given by their editors to chase what looked at the time to essentially be a ghost story inspired by a mysterious anonymous source.

So how do we inspire a change in our papers? one away from shareholders, away from advertisers affecting our news coverage? well, we either make a new architecture for journalism publishing ourselves, or we do the one thing that truly inspires radical change in a corporation: we hit their bottom line hard. we stop buying the papers.

are these things that happen as consciously as I've outlined them? of course not. it's a sort of organic process that no one totally understands. but it seems like that's what's happening. we've got this new architecture for publishing online, and some people are taking advantage of it. some if it is just as corporate. some of it is laughably amateur. some of them are just armchair politics junkies who think they have a handle on how to be a reporter and really don't have a clue. hopefully some of them are people with real drive and ability.

and on top of that we're also buying fewer papers. I find it hard to feel happy about that. (except for the post. fuck that piece of shit right in the ass. it infuriates me how many people I see carrying that toilet paper under their arms every day just because it costs less than the times.) I certainly don't want to see this affect you, or another friend of mine who recently became a staff writer at the times. On the other hand, I don't know what to expect from a public that hates how badly the 4th estate has eroded, even if they don't know that's what's been happening.

comments like delmoi's are unfortunate, but kind of understandable. of course, delmoi just needs to say something in every single thread, so it's not as big a deal, but that people in general can muster that kind of froth is understandable in some way. that this will hit reporters and newspapers in their pocket books is terrible, but sometimes to my eye seems inevitable. I don't think it'll degrade as badly as you're saying, but there will be hard times for papers before they find themselves sufficiently motivated to change. a bailout would only prolong the problem, and delay the solution.
posted by shmegegge at 10:34 AM on February 17, 2009 [2 favorites]


We might and we might not. Who's to say what we would be discussing? The thought that newspaper coverage during the Bush administration has sealed its fate is debatable at best.

Add me to the data-points of those who find it very hard to see any dire fate as anything but self-inflicted. Cheer-leading the country into war and ruin (among other shocking derelictions of purpose, if not duty) is not really a "Oops. Our bad. Oh well, we'll try harder next time!" sort of thing.

TV was little better and arguably worse; It ain't going down the tubes.

Last I heard it was. I wouldn't know, just judging by the bleatings of TV executives struggling to find a way to recapture their most profitable demographic, the viewing hours from which have all but evaporated.

But apples and oranges. I think people who want high quality news in detail are more likely to turn to newspapers, and people who want some R&R are more likely to turn to TV.

I still buy a paper every day, but e-ink readers are getting close to the point where they exceed the tactile advantage of print and I would be just as happy reading the newspaper on the device. Once that happens, even for a newspaper die-hard like me, newspapers will have lost their only media advantage and will have to face their online competition head-on, purely on merit of content. And right now, I think they'd lose.
posted by -harlequin- at 10:59 AM on February 17, 2009


What are you talking about? That's from a series of articles on incarceration in the US in the NYT. Just because you don't make an effort to read some of the leading newspapers anymore doesn't mean they don't contain some valuable things.
posted by modernnomad


This is more of a problem with the example that I used then the point that I was making.

Although to respond to that particular example, I'm not sure that linking to an article from almost a year ago makes the case that newspapers are giving the issue of mass imprisonment of Americans the ink that it might deserve. I'm curious how much press it gets compared to OJ, even in the NYT.

The prison example above was just an example of how journalists and editors in this country make decisions about what to report. Objectivity can be a pretense for presenting just the mainstream view of the world. If you look back on how anyone who predicted our current financial crisis was laughed at two years ago in the media, it was not taken seriously because it was out of the realm of what "serious people" considered to be possible. What has changed is not the facts of the situation, but the way they are perceived by the people who report on them.
posted by jefeweiss at 11:38 AM on February 17, 2009


there is no money in reporting your local sewer meeting or on what your local school board is doing. And yet - that’s what really makes a difference in your life.


As evidenced by countless obsessively-focused sites, there likely will be a rise of "sewer experts" and school board watchdogs who will know and publish far more minutiae than any bored, underpaid newspaper cub reporter ever has. And whereas before, public commentary about print journalism was limited to editor-selected (and often strenuously edited) letters, now people can contribute their knowledge via site/blog/forum comments.

Objectivity is giving way to multiple perspective focus. Before, we were served the news in careful rations. Now we choose from a rather glorious, wild buffet.
posted by terranova at 11:40 AM on February 17, 2009


Objectivity is giving way to multiple perspective focus. Before, we were served the news in careful rations. Now we choose from a rather glorious, wild buffet.

I'm not sure if you're making that out to be a good thing. It sounds terrible to me. I'm all for variety in my food, but not especially thrilled with the idea of having to parse the truth from a variety of perspectives that range from Studs Terkel to The Timecube Guy. It's hard enough just trying to make sense between Fox News and DailyKOS.
posted by shmegegge at 11:47 AM on February 17, 2009


I see room for both the more established media outlets (though perhaps not necessarily in paper-print form) and for bloggers...

But I reject the wild-eyed anti-MSM trope that the internet means everyone is and can be a reporter and so we don't need 'editors', 'reporters', or traditional fact-checking anymore... I rejet it for the same reason that I rejected a potential Palin presidency -- just because anyone CAN be a president [reporter], doesn't mean that everyone SHOULD. I don't want just anyone operating on me and I don't want just anyone (hi Joe the Plumber!) providing me with analysis of the Gaza conflict... the errors and weaknesses of the MSM are not an argument that traditional reporting ought to be entirely replaced with 'citizen blogging'... both have a role to play.
posted by modernnomad at 11:56 AM on February 17, 2009


God I hope they take their smug, self-important attitudes with them.

Delmoi's silliness in this thread is par for the course. But this sentence is worth noting just in terms of how much of the "newspapers are dying and that's a good thing!" argument is not really an argument at all, but just an explosion of bitterness, schadenfreude and adolescent glee, in which people who have a lot psychologically invested in being part of the "internet era" get to mock the trials and tribulations of an industry with its roots in an older era. It's an emotional thing. And it's sometimes quite personal - in some cases, the loudest advocates of the death of newspapers are people who failed to realize their own ambitions of a career in newspapers, or whose newspaper careers plateaued early on, causing them to reinvent themselves as vanguards of the web. The volume of their bluster distracts from the weakness of their arguments.
posted by game warden to the events rhino at 11:56 AM on February 17, 2009 [3 favorites]


terranova: Objectivity is giving way to multiple perspective focus. Before, we were served the news in careful rations. Now we choose from a rather glorious, wild buffet.

Which all tastes the same if everyone is getting their information from a handful of big media enterprises.
posted by KirkJobSluder at 11:57 AM on February 17, 2009


Until newspapers begin to realize that they are in essence news gathering and advertising organizations, and they build the capability to deliver content in the form factor that consumers want, they will struggle. They should be thriving in an environment that is increasingly moving to a lower cost of delivery platform, but their marketing myopia inhibits this. Blogs are not news gathering organizations. I doubt TPM has a local stringer in Abu Dhabi or Youngstown. They are aggregators, and provide editorial comment, but very rarely do they perform primary research or reporting.
posted by sfts2 at 12:17 PM on February 17, 2009


Could someone who thinks that actual news reportage takes place online point me to some examples of specific instances where a reporter for a news blog that is unconnected to old media actually left their desk, went out somewhere and saw something or talked to someone that scooped the print or TV media?

Last year, Josh Marshall's Talking Points Memo won a George Polk Award for Legal Reporting for its groundbreaking coverage of the US attorney firing scandal, which had gone unnoticed by regular newspapers in their local reporting. Marshall (who doesn't have an M.A. in journalism) and his team connected the dots, partly by asking their readers to contribute tips, and saw the big picture of what had actually happened.

Similarly, VoiceofSanDiego.org, a nonprofit, independent web publication founded and staffed by trained journalists, investigated corruption in the city's redevelopment agencies, resulting in criminal charges, while the San Diego Union-Tribune was asleep on the job. There are similar web-journalism operations in New Haven, the Twin Cities, Seattle, St. Louis and Chicago that are doing reporting where their local papers aren't.

Meanwhile, Pajamas Media, which had a much more conventional blogging business model, is shutting down their Blogger venture as of the end of this March. If that's the bloggers vs. newspapers dichotomy we're talking about, then they're both going to die out.
posted by Doktor Zed at 12:29 PM on February 17, 2009 [1 favorite]


I doubt TPM has a local stringer in Abu Dhabi or Youngstown. They are aggregators, and provide editorial comment, but very rarely do they perform primary research or reporting. and that is the heart of the problem. When my government spends $X million of my / our tax money invading or whatever in Wombatistan, I want to hear what is going on and why from a Dith Pran or Declan Walsh or Robert Fisk. Who will pay Seymour Hersh or Chris Hedges or these photographers?. All these were / are working investigative journalists telling us the public the stories our rulers would rather we didn't know. The inconvenient truths. The commentators can stay at home in their air conditioned appartments but raw news comes from boots on the ground.
posted by adamvasco at 12:49 PM on February 17, 2009 [1 favorite]


Shepherd: That was FiveThirtyEight, Potomac. But they've transitioned from being a "stats and analysis" site to a full-time Washington-based site that seems to be doing their own full-time dedicated reporting as well.

Yes: dedicated, in-depth, critical reporting such as this.
posted by goodnewsfortheinsane at 12:54 PM on February 17, 2009


“there likely will be a rise of "sewer experts" and school board watchdogs who will know and publish far more minutiae than any bored, underpaid newspaper cub reporter ever has”

That’d be sort of the problem. Attention and context aren’t just packaging. I mean -”Bin Laden Determined to Attack Inside the United States" is a pretty eye catching title. The ‘glorious, wild buffet’ is just raw data. Which, in the allegory I use, Rice spun as not warning of attacks inside the U.S. and as “historical information based on old reporting” with “no new threat information.”
Which is, to some extent, true. The FBI said it had detected "patterns of suspicious activity in this country consistent with preparations for hijackings" and that al Qaeda had been considering ways to hijack American planes in 2001 and that suspected al Qaeda operatives were traveling to and from the United States, were U.S. citizens, and may have had a support network in the country and there were at least 70 FBI investigations were under way in 2001 regarding possible al Qaeda cells/terrorist-related operations in the United States aimed at hijacking planes.

Without a context to place all this in - it’s just data. As Rice asserted - they didn’t say anything about using planes as weapons. Except Richard Clarke, y’know, did.
Now, the Bush administration’s attention, apparently, was not on that. But it wasn’t for lack of trying.

Same deal with the city infrastructure and the school committee meetings. I don’t much care about the details. I want the important information that can be derived from a pattern which is discernable from someone who has comprehensively studied the subject in a professional manner.
I don’t much care if the cub reporter is bored. He - like the FBI - is going to notice the pattern and be able to deliver the most relevent fact or facts - whether because of their dissimilarity with previous workings or their pairity with them (the school board does a dramatic U turn on bussing and stops bussing kids, say - or they quietly attempt to change how they fund it, outsourcing it or whatever - etc. etc.) - regardless of the mass of other information out there.

I don’t have the time or the inclination to sift through the buffet for myself. It’s the same reason we have representative government. It’s just more efficient to have a representative - alibeit a disinterested one - sitting and watching stuff and figuring out what I’d want to hear about based on my interests like a defacto resident. Because they know the community as well - not because they live there or have a dog in the hunt.

As it is we, like the Bush administration, have chosen to only want to hear about what we want to hear about or decide that somehow all information is opinion and all data is equal.
It’s not.
I want to know what my school board is doing so I know what’s up with my house, my kids, their education. I want to know what the city is doing so I know what the streets will be like and I want it brought to me as though I was actually there, eliminated the chaff, and gave myself the most useful data to make those decisions.

Until we get AI only a person can do that. And as it is now, only a person who has no reason to do it other than they’re paid to do it can do it well.

I mean, you’d think the FBI counterterrorism work on that PDB would be exciting. But sitting at a desk, examining flight records, matching names, all requiring a conscious effort coupled with a knowlege of terrorism operations, mission specifics, styles, personalities, etc. etc. - really f’ing boring. No guns or jumping out of helicopters involved.
But hey - all the data was out there in a big smorgasboard - why wouldn’t that serve?
In retrospect, probably accomplishes the same thing if you don’t give a shit.

Same damned argument I have about outsourcing intelligence analysis, gathering, all that.
It’s like the colloquial joke about hookers - you’re not paying them for sex, you’re paying them to leave. Same deal - you don’t pay people to go and get the information, you pay them not to have a personal stake in it.
posted by Smedleyman at 1:15 PM on February 17, 2009


So much to say. Off the top of my head, in no particular order:

People seem a little confused about what the old media is getting wrong. Is it not being interesting enough, or is it sensationalism? Is it not hounding the government, or a lack of objectivity?

I know that the eight Bush/Blair years can hardly be counted as a success for the old media, but a stady stream of revelations about that misrule has been produced, by the NYT, by WaPo, by The Guardian, by the New Yorker, the LRB, the NYTBR, and even crappier sources like the London Times or Newsweek. What has blogging achieved in that time, its golden opportunity? Well, quite a bit, but not enough to be considered anything close to a replacement - its biggest scoops have come from fact-checking the existing media. It's still essentially parasitic.

The failure to hold Bush and Blair properly to account is partly the fault of the newspapers, but far from wholly, or even mostly. As far as I can see one problem is that ranting on the web has become a sort of catharsis for people disgusted by the antics of the Bush and Blair years, it makes them feel like they have achieved something when they spend all their time of DU or KOS or somewhere whinging. The web is a formidable organising tool, if it's used that way; I'm talking about the way that the "everyone's a reporter" rhetoric means people feel they are achieving a great deal by setting up a ranty blog and getting 500 readers when they would achieve more by getting 500 people to turn up outside City Hall.

The trouble with the fabulous smorgasbord of competing micro-news-providers, each with their own levels of accuracy, fairness and commitment, is that ultimately most people will just gravitate toward the one outlet or subgroup that accords most closely with their own prejedices. The whole atomised scene will actually resemble an enfilade of echo chambers, each sealed from the other. Look at the reaction of some people here when Fox, or The Sun, is linked to - "Not those bastards! I don't trust anything from that sewer!".

I don't see that blogs can keep investigative journalism going unless they follow a newspaper format and have 10 hacks turning over gossip and crime and sensation to keep the hits coming and the advertising paying, to support the living expenses of one guy who's only going to file five stories in two years, but they'll blow open a major story.

And it will come down to hits and advertising, and that which bleeds will continue to lead, and the some conflicts of interest and questions of not irritating the advertisers (or Google) and the balancing of access with exposure - all thse problems will remain, but in the hands of untrained dilettantes with no libel safety net.

A word of defence of print - without an unchanging printed historial record it will only be a couple of years at most before the first history-tampering scandals emerge, and when they emerge they will come down to he-said, she-said. Libel The ability to retroactively alter the historical record is a fabulous power. Placed in the hands of government departments, corporations, major news organisations, and so on ... I am certain they would use it. The self-conscious way that blogs like Boing Boing and Buzzmachine conduct "visible mending", striking out errors and inserting the correct version beside it, is evidence of a deep sense of unease.

Editors and sub-editors are really important. They can make a failing story into a good story, thy can encourage the demoralised, they can reveal crucial factual errors. Word lengths are also good. If you blether on for 2500 words when your story could be edited into 500, maybe you'll flesh it out a little, but it won't matter because only three people will read to the end. (look at this screed I'm putting out now ...)

There's a lot else to say, and I agree with a lot of things said up-thread. But, importantly, I want to add that I really like blogs and the new media and I want them to thrive, but I also want print newspapers to thrive alongside them, and at the moment dross is driving out quality in both media. What I don't like are the either-or new-media supremacists who say hat the old media has had its day and should make way. They said that about TV news. And look at it now! A vibrant rage of media in different formats should be the goal.
posted by WPW at 1:31 PM on February 17, 2009 [4 favorites]


TRy fitting that wall of text in 140 characters.
posted by pr0digal at 3:23 PM on February 17, 2009


Old journalism saying: "Sorry this piece is so long, I didn't have time to write a short one."
posted by WPW at 3:39 PM on February 17, 2009 [1 favorite]


I don't think it'll degrade as badly as you're saying

I wish that were true, but really, it's so much worse than you think. Everyone is laying off, closing bureaus, shuttering sections.
Soon, by the end of the year probably, there will be major American cities left without a hometown newspaper. Newark, a city riven by corruption which needs reporters looking out for its citizens more than most, is widely expected to be the first.
This will be, no exaggeration, a catastrophe.
posted by CunningLinguist at 3:42 PM on February 17, 2009 [2 favorites]


As evidenced by countless obsessively-focused sites, there likely will be a rise of "sewer experts" and school board watchdogs who will know and publish far more minutiae than any bored, underpaid newspaper cub reporter ever has.

I really doubt it. I've sat through the tedious multi-hour posturing that is your basic school board meeting and if I weren't young and hungry for bigger things, even the meager paycheck I was getting couldn't have kept me there. There are few worse ways of spending an evening.
Your average blogger just isn't going to go sit, for free, at a four hour meeting on a Tuesday night and take good notes while the pols bloviate and compare what happened to last month and then interview people later for a post that almost no one will read. And if such a blogger did suddenly develop a devotion to reporting on the city meetings, I would be certain he had a secret agenda.
posted by CunningLinguist at 4:20 PM on February 17, 2009 [2 favorites]


cunninglinguist, you are a voice of reason in one of the many threads here that similarly tend to make me suicidal and homicidal.

i'm so tired of the same three examples of blog investigations-- TPM and the AG's, San Diego, etc-- being used to say that newspapers can fold and blogs will handle it. The truth is reporting is expensive, often tedious and extremely time-consuming. And blogs don't have the resources to pay enough people to do it on the wide scale needed.

I don't know if anyone linked the New Republic piece on this same topic which cited an interesting study showing that the less of what they called "free circulation" of newspapers a country or state had, the more corruption it had. In case they didn't, it's here.

Free circulation is a measure apparently designed to combine freedom of the press with newspaper circulation-- it doesn't mean the newspapers are not paid for. A historical analysis also found a similar trend.

Now, as I'm the first to say, correlation is not cause. It could be that corruption causes reduced freedom of the press and lower newspaper circulation. But I'd bet it's at least a two way relationship: ie, corruption can reduce newspapers and newspapers can reduce corruption.

Either way, once you get a society with high corruption, it's very, very difficult to move back to a society with well-functioning markets, low violence and high trust.
posted by Maias at 7:08 PM on February 17, 2009 [1 favorite]


Everything CL has said.

But as Blazecock and Pastbagel point out, newspapers have been failing to do this for decades, and spectacularly in 2003 when Judith Miller, one of journalism's "best and brightest" managed to invent ex nihilo a cause for invasion and the eventual occupation of Iraq.

Always with the Judith Miller comments and never any recognition of Knight Ridder.

40 Noteworthy Articles Made Possible By FOIA, 2004-2006
posted by mlis at 7:36 PM on February 17, 2009 [1 favorite]


People seem a little confused about what the old media is getting wrong. Is it not being interesting enough, or is it sensationalism? Is it not hounding the government, or a lack of objectivity?

This is something that's always puzzled me. 'Old media' pretends to ask these questions of the public at large, and yet old media are surely the ones best-placed to find their own answers. So newspaper journalism has real value? I don't see any of mainstream journalism's purported strengths on display when it comes to researching the curious story of how their own institutions have become marginal.

You're a journalist: do some bloody research. Enough of this opinion crap.

If Kos et al are parasites, and are successful, why can't the mainstream media just copy the things that draw people to those sites? Surely, surely, with the resources and connections the print media enjoys, it can out-Kos Daily Kos, out-Huff the Huffington Post. How could they possibly compete with you? If people can get everything from you that the Huffington Post provides, plus all the things that the Huff doesn't do, they won't go to the Huff.
posted by Ritchie at 12:47 AM on February 18, 2009


Ritchie: The basis of my question was to show that when the old media is criticised, it is often from contradictory positions. There isn't a simple shopping list of complaints that can be responded to.

The thing is - and this brings me to your second point - the argument isn't that blogs are killing the old media. A lot of things are killing the old media, or at least hurting it lots, including costs, declining readership (for several contradictory reasons), demographics, distribution troubles, and (most importantly) upheavals in the advertising business model. The argument is that the death of the old media doesn't matter, because blogs are ready to take up the slack - they can do the good stuff better and the other stuff we don't need to do. That's not true.

It isn't true that HuffPo is killing the NYT, the overall interplay between the readers that blogs take from and the readers they supply to the old media is actually a lot more complicated. And it isn't that the HuffPo is doing something that the NYT isn't doing. The NYT (and other) provide the HuffPo's raw material - links and stories. HuffPo also does comment, which the NYT already does itself. But the expensive thing that the NYT does is reporting and investigation, and HuffPo doesn't really do any of that. The NYT could further emulate HuffPo but that won't pay for the big-ticket item, proper news reporting, not the re-reporting and aggregating that HuffPo does.
posted by WPW at 1:21 AM on February 18, 2009


"I doubt TPM has a local stringer in Abu Dhabi or Youngstown."

Why should they? TPM is focused on political news and analysis which mostly comes out of DC.

I mean, you have a point, but TPM is succesful because it has a laser-like focus on what it wants to cover (Marshall has stated he started TPM in response to the illegal activities of the Bush II administration) and does so with none of the bloat that takes up, or at least used to take up, MSM publications.

The whole notion of blogs leeching off of "real" reporters and stringers out there in the field is hopelessly false. We don't need a Cronkite in Iraq when there are perfectly valid Arab-language news sources there already, as well as those unwashed Iraqi bloggers and such. (I guess we do need translators, but that would still fall into the aggregation model.) Honestly, we're better off without MSM-sponsored journalists in Iraq anyways, since under the "embed" model they're hopelessly removed from the reality on the ground anyways, since everything they witness is filtered through military intelligence officers anyways.

To put it another way, when's the last time Chris Matthews (sorry, I love picking on that wind-bag) put on his fedora and walked down Pennsylvania Avenue to "get the real story"? Honestly, did he ever, or did he just use his connections to rise up through the ranks of the punditocracy?

For years newspapers and news organizations have effectively shat on honest, hard-working reporters by making it clear that what's most important to them is a) personality driven punditry and b) profits for shareholders. For them to now raise a cry about Joe Q. Cub-reporter out there on her beat is both stupid and dishonest.
posted by bardic at 2:01 AM on February 18, 2009


*and I am obviously in love with the word "anyways" for some reason
posted by bardic at 2:03 AM on February 18, 2009


Fair enough WPW, and thanks for taking time to explain. I read neither the print media nor the big-name blogs (Kos/Huff), so if I was taking a purely selfish perspective, I probably wouldn't notice any of them disappear. The blogs I frequent tend to be more self-contained.

What I, as a reader, need more of is a mix of journalism, analysis, and filtration. If that were in the daily paper, I'd very likely be a subscriber. There's a lot of cynicism on display in this thread - the assumption that the public is shunning the mainstream media for not being sufficiently lowbrow and partisan (whereas the good people of Metafilter shun the mainstream media for being too shallow and corrupt. I guess it's my turn to be cynical) - I don't believe any of it. People want to know more. Sometimes they don't know what they want to know. Good reporting has a tendency to make it's own audience.

I need the journalism because I'm a human being and my brain responds to narrative explanations. A pie graph won't do it. A bald commentary won't work either. I need someone who can tell a story and tell it well.

I also need the analysis, so I can become smarter. I don't need to be told what to think, but I'm always eager to be introduced to new ways of thinking. Good analysis will make a regular reader out of me faster than any other factor, and I don't think I'm alone. Any blog can discuss ideas, but individual perspectives are only either right or wrong, agree or disagree. The truth is there are no ideas, there are only themes.

I need the filtration because there is so much out there. I need some way of shutting parts of it out. Every so often, I'm happy knowing nothing more than the traffic report and the weather forecast. Pretty much any blog or aggregator can do that. But I also need an extraordinary type of filtration that introduces me to new things I wouldn't have found on my own. For that, there needs to be some kind of community.
posted by Ritchie at 2:36 AM on February 18, 2009


I think the only thing threatened by the decline of newspapers are salaries. All this other stuff - sources, reporting, facts, objectivity - can be found in equal abundance online.

Jeez, I read one comment and already my blood is boiling. Is professional photography dead because there's a "red eye" button in Photoshop? Reporting, as it is described in the quote in the OP, is not a hobby, it's a full time job, a trade, a craft that takes years and probably decades to learn properly. It relates to most "reporting" in the blogosphere like a Chippendale commode to an Ikea book rack.

Not because the reporter is a better writer. Not because a reporter is always first with news. Not because a reporter knows a subject better than anyone. There are blogs that are arguably better at all these things. But because a reporter has no stake in the story, other than telling the story itself in its entirety. A true reporter is driven by the love of a good story, nothing more, nothing less. His position - the very fact that he gets a salary to report - makes him objective.

This is what bloggers can't claim. They have no editors to fact check them, and no colleagues to second guess them and guide them. They blog about things they feel strongly about, and with that, subjectivity is already hardwired in their system.

Unfortunately it's true that nowadays most journalists have become telex slaves, rewriting PR releases and AP wire stories. Much like bloggers who are "plugged in" to the same PR channels as the journalists and congratulate themselves on their 'good contacts'.

But true reporting is not done in the blogosphere or online, or at a metro desk for that matter. It's done in the streets, in the courthouses, in the archives, in the libraries, in the hospitals, daycare centers, old people's homes, town halls, taxi stands, bars and strip joints. Those are the places where the stories come from that give an insight into the human condition. The only organisations rich enough to support that kind of digging and poking are professional media outlets - whether print, tv or online.

Read these books, and tell me you can blog them together. 'The Last Cowboy' by Jane Kramer. 'Doctor Dealer', Mark Bowden. 'Homicide', David Simon. 'Friday Night Lights', H.G. Bissinger. 'Paper Lion', George Plimpton. 'Newjack', Ted Conover. 'Hell's Angels', Hunter S. Thompson. 'Into the wild', Jon Krakauer. 'Bringing down the house', Ben Mezrich. 'Killings', Calvin Trillin.

I mourn the decline of reporting, and so should you.
posted by NekulturnY at 3:53 AM on February 18, 2009 [1 favorite]


Ritchie: If people can get everything from you that the Huffington Post provides, plus all the things that the Huff doesn't do, they won't go to the Huff.

As of right now, there is only a single story in the Huffington Post's middle column that isn't derivative of news previously published by other news sources. In their "most popular" ticker, the only item I can find that isn't derivative of the MSM is sourced from the GOP's web site. On the right column, every story is either derived from the MSM, or comments on the MSM with the byline "Huffington Post."

To me, it looks like that the only thing original to the Huffington Post on their web site is the blog punditry.

bardic: The whole notion of blogs leeching off of "real" reporters and stringers out there in the field is hopelessly false. We don't need a Cronkite in Iraq when there are perfectly valid Arab-language news sources there already, as well as those unwashed Iraqi bloggers and such.

But let's talk about Talking Points Memo. As of my quick sampling this morning, more than 80% of the front page content on TPM is nothing more than rebranded AP wire articles. This notion that TPM is providing a radically different alternative to the MSM, when a large chunk of their content and business model seems to be built around delivering up the same wire feed that you'd get from your local paper is hopelessly false.
posted by KirkJobSluder at 6:38 AM on February 18, 2009


To put it another way, when's the last time Chris Matthews (sorry, I love picking on that wind-bag) put on his fedora and walked down Pennsylvania Avenue to "get the real story"?

Jesus Christ. You do know the difference between a beat reporter looking through records at the court house and a political commentator/discussion TV host, right? Because you sure don't seem to. One can be emulated and supplanted by some witty guy with a website, one cannot.
Also, last I checked, no one was bemoaning the imminent death of TV opinion gasbags. In this thread, or anywhere else.


We don't need a Cronkite in Iraq when there are perfectly valid Arab-language news sources there already

Glad to know you have the time and cultural sensitivity to go through those sources and recognize which are aligned with which political factions, which are nothing but blatant propaganda tools, which are just a little sloppy with the facts and which can be depended on to check information.
And I guess we can scrap the whole concept of sending someone from your own community to report on how the guys from the next cowtown over are handling their overseas deployment. Maybe the DOD will put a photo on the wire or something.
posted by CunningLinguist at 6:44 AM on February 18, 2009 [2 favorites]


To me, it looks like TPM and HuffPo are just tweaking a 50-year old business model for newspapers.

1: buy lots of cheap content from wire services and other newspapers.
2: apply an editorial filter to "localize" that content to a specific audience.
3: develop original content to further hook the audience.

Which is great for what it is, but please don't claim it's some radically new model of journalism.
posted by KirkJobSluder at 7:08 AM on February 18, 2009 [1 favorite]


Except newspapers have to pay AP and Reuters and DowJones for their content. Websites just reproduce it at whim.
posted by CunningLinguist at 7:13 AM on February 18, 2009


This is much a wider discussion than journalists lamenting the loss of income. There are questions here which go beyond newspapers and the demise of a social institution once seen as central to understanding the world and to monitoring the behavior of other social institutions.

Digital tech is in its infancy but emerging fast and bringing social change along with it. Accessibility of smart tools and free unmediated access to a brand new public space are causing shifts in the cultural/institutional/cognitive landscape.
With a decline in professionals comes a decline in professionalism, ie., a body of standards and practices and an institutional imprimatur. But does that necessarily mean a decline in expertise? A decline in sophistication?

Human knowledge about the world is vast and detailed. Reliance on experts is an epistemic necessity. Fortunately or unfortunately, Authority has taken a beating as a reliable source. Confidence in experts has been corroded by corruption. But unmediated access does not mean less bias or less bullshit. I'm guessing we'll see (are seeing?) the emergence of institutions and practices that will provide us with sources of attested veracity and verifiability.
posted by Jode at 7:44 AM on February 18, 2009


Jode, you raise provocative questions about journalism's future. Contemporaneous with the rise of blogging and digital media outlets came a pronounced decline in traditional journalism product. Newspapers have had to cut staff, close bureaus, woo advertisers, and (over the past eight years) reluctantly follow a secretive administration's marching orders. Their subscriber demographics are unenviable: they've been abandoned by the 35-and-under age group. And they are struggling to reshape a growingly undesirable product: a labor- and materials-heavy print newspaper that offers yesterday's news.

In many ways, traditional journalism is failing in its missions, and the public is justifiably seeking other venues for its news. Some traditional outlets, however, such as the London Times, are likely to survive and even thrive if they can radically reinvent themselves for the Digital Age. They can capitalize upon their expertise: intelligently, objectively exploring news. But those that can't metamorphosize will disappear from our landscape.

In the future, professional journalists will have more diverse opportunities to hone their trade, not less. Some may join editor-driven news sites. Others may go solo, as bloggers or independent news reporters. Or they may found news outlets of their own.

Thus far, despite old media's continued dismissal of bloggers, there has been no decline of professionalism, sophistication, or availability of news dissemination. In fact, blogging and digital media have intensified competition in the industry, so are actually augmenting these criteria.
posted by terranova at 9:04 AM on February 18, 2009


don't claim it's some radically new model of journalism.

Not trying to. But if it works for Huff why can't the NYT do it as well? You'd think they'd have a natural advantage, being the ones who actually employ the reporters and get the stories first.
posted by Ritchie at 12:44 AM on February 19, 2009


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