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March 25, 2009


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David Cohn

I also enjoyed the post - the idea of a "State of the Union" is one I've been thinking about a lot lately.

I try to avoid the old media v new media debate. I think it is pointless and a waste of time (thanks for putting that up high).

What I do think is important are constructive criticisms for both.

My constructive criticism of old media: It is not agile or iterative - it takes them 6 months to try something new on the web - when it should take between 6 hours or 6 days. Their process kills them.

Constructive criticism for new media: It needs to mature. Right now it can't tackle long-form investigative pieces - as Robert points out.

The two can work together. "Do what you do best and link to the rest." In many ways I think print newspapers should become weeklies - following up on what the community reporters (citizens journalists, whatever you want to call them) put out in the day-to-day.

Even still - there is a business model problem. I like to think that Spot.Us (my nonprofit startup) is trying to find a middle ground. Whether or not we do - somehow a middle ground must be found (a union) where the two can collaborate to get the best of both worlds.

Miss Communications

Baker's silver bullet for the news industry seems awfully optimistic when there's no money to spend. Besides, she's describing magazines -- recipes, gardening advice, investment strategies -- more than newspapers. We already have magazines. The question is, what should newspapers be?

David W. Miller

Blah, Blah, Blah, I can't for the life of me understand how either one of you get paid for what you do. It is a crime if you get paid for your irreverant BS.
You are both so OUT OF SYNC, with what the true nature of blogging or journalisim has, as far as the impact on the consumer of knowledge wants.
Quick and consise. That's it, period. Tell the News, tell the Story, tell what YOU know about the situation. Period. Don't ramble on and on and on and on and on, Do you get it NOW???
Say what you have to Say, You can always come back in less than the time it takes for someone to respond to your words, and add a conversational piece to the work. And THEN maybe your work might have some meaning.

Kurt Cagle

Superb piece, one that is hitting at the very core of journalism. Thanks, both of you.

I regular jump between the role of blogger and journalist for O'Reilly Media, as I think is true for an increasing number of writers in this space. Ignoring for a moment the question of monetizing news content, overall I see the role of the two blurring considerably; most journalistic blogs are advocacy pieces of some sort, emphasizing the fact that something is cool or important or game-changing, typically in a manner that reflects either the individual's or the corporation's biases, while the investigative journalism pieces typically reflect an attempt at objectivity that may or may not actually be present (the very fact that a given event is covered represents a bias towards at least recognizing the importance of the event).

We're reinventing journalism, invigorating it with a modern ethic and sensibility, that is a response to our own time and media as much as news, radio and TV journalists had to establish an ethical structure for their respective media.

I'm not at all convinced that journalism is dying, only that the journalism that most of us older farts know is dying. The journalism of 2010 takes place 140 characters at a time, is linked to YouTube videos and podcasts, and exists in the interstices of blogging platforms.

That the young journalists in question didn't graduate from the Columbia School of Journalism is irrelevant (just as many ways, those former graduates are becoming increasingly irrelevant), and to get wrapped up in discussions of whether bloggers or conventional journalists are the true heirs to the throne misses the point. The contract of journalistic ethics is being rewritten even now, and it has as much resemblance to Bob Woodward's views of journalism as his did to Henry Luce or even Nellie Bly.

I'm also inclined to question the hand wringing about funding journalists and/or bloggers. What is in fact the real meat here is that the advertising industry has collapsed, torn apart by market hyper-fragmentation, an over-reliance upon big-ticket ad buyers and an increasingly out-of-touch sense of its own importance. Newspapers in particular had developed in symbiosis with advertising, so its not particularly surprising that they are now dying in concept with them as well.

Advertising as practiced until comparatively recently was highly centralized and very top-down driven (think Y&R, for instance), and as such increasingly incompatible with the bottom-up, network oriented world that's been emerging since the invention of the Internet. What's replacing these monstrous Madison Avenue agencies are small (from 1 to 20 person) shops, typically highly focused on a given micro-niche of interest, often acting in concert with other such agencies and working with companies to target those specific niches.

What's most important there is that what those shops are looking for most is credibility - not ad copy, not press releases, but objectivity, because we have an entire generation of kids who've grown up with heightened bogosity filters. It'll take a while (and there will be dozens of experiments over the next few years to find what works) but journalism will ultimately end up being funded by loose coalitions of interests to walk the hard line between promoting a viewpoint and remaining objective.

Will this spell the end of Big News? Yes, but this is happening already. Power centers such as Washington or New York will not be covered by a couple dozen large news agencies with expensive filming equipment, million dollar anchors and dedicated satellite up-link trunks, but by tens of thousands of small "agencies" representing everyone from the Sunlight Foundation to the John Birch Society wielding Flips and iPods.

Journalism will survive. Just expect it to come increasingly in the form of an eighteen year old Goth Girl with a ring through her lip, an iPhone in her hand and a serious desire to find the Truth.

Maurice Cardinal

Good points, but you didn't roll the consumer of news into the equation.

The internets fracture many markets, which means the news is now being consumed by a very wide variety of people with a wide variety of intellect.

Twitter, blogs and the like cherry pick users, and because of this, the power mainstream news media used to have has diminished considerably.

It's about the news consumer, not the publisher.

Robin 'Roblimo' Miller

As a "blogger" I do almost exactly what I did back when the job was called "columnist." The only difference is that my "blog" is delivered electronically and can be found through search engines, while my column was on paper and could only be searched for in the local library's archives.

I also do "citizen journalism" for a local TV station and make online and TV spots for local businesses. What does all of this make me?

What I really do is tell stories. As long as my stories are entertaining and informative, I get money for telling most of them, which lets me avoid "honest labor" like loading trucks, driving a taxi or painting boats.

I tell some stories with text, some with audio, and some with video. Since I'm kind of bored with typing, what with being 56 and having done more of it than most people, I've moved almost entirely to video over the past few years.

But it's all storytelling. In a way, it doesn't matter to me whether I'm telling a story about why you should choose a particular law firm to handle a construction defect lawsuit or one about dwarf mixed martial arts fighting.

(Don't laugh; yesterday I finished editing and uploading a series of online videos for a Sarasota construction law firm, and Friday night I'm filming a dwarf MMA match at a bar in Tampa.)

And in between these essentially commercial projects I do a fair amount of journalism. Right now I'm more oriented toward features than investigative work, but who cares? A story's a story. Getting the facts right and spelling all the names correctly is what counts, whether I'm doing text or video or sitting cross-legged in the market square with a donation bowl in front of me.

Mike Schultz

Fascinating exploration, thanks to both of you.

I think the blogging community is very dependent upon the more research-based role of more traditional news journalism... what I worry about personally is that we're seeing less of those news sources driving the news, and more regurgitation of the core stories, expanded by the interesting opinions from the blogging community. Success for all depends upon the journalists thriving in the changing world of reporting. Working with a wide range of emerging technology companies on the communications front, I find that bloggers seldom get the full story correct when they look at my clients, because they simply don't have the time to take a meeting and understand the new technology before writing -- great perspective, but often not grounded in enough base understanding, which can be dangerous. However, on the flip side, when properly approached (not pitched as a journalist, but asked for direct feedback and opinions on a new technology), I find that bloggers will go into far more depth of personally using, experiencing and evaluating a new product... giving readers a better understanding from real-world use.

What it comes down to, is a superior ability for reporters to cover true news, and bloggers to add perspective to that news. And bloggers further serve as the hands-on validation and consumer voice exploring real-world application of new products, services, and innovation (the next generation of review labs?).

In the end, the reporter and blogger roles are evolving... so none of us know where it all will end up. However, we need to find a way to keep the journalistic endeavours properly funded, as they feed the success of blogging (otherwise, the news sources become company-written press releases). We need both journalist and blogger perspectives to properly understand news, innovation, etc. -- lets hope the roles never merge too much.

Mike Schultz
Message Infusion, LLC

Andrew Feinberg

I enjoyed this post. A lot.

The one thing about Wasington, Robert, is that reporters need more than face time w/ members to develop information for stories. Working the halls takes miles and miles of walking office to office and on the phone, cultivating sources and pouring over documents.

And eventually, you have what you need to track down that member coming out of a vote and ask the tough questions.

It takes time, and access. And right now, there is no mechanism to give bloggers (even good ones like Josh Marshall) either, while HuffPost gets access because of money and political favors owed.

There are simply too many barriers to entry these days.

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