Q & A & A

The Project for Excellence in Journalism created a roundtable-via-email about online and the future of news. That’s here. My answers were cut short, which is fine, except what was excised was my complaint about the questions; I argued that they were bringing the old-media worldview to the new-media world. So they linked to my full answers and so will I. A few examples from the cutting-room floor:

Question: Blog readership seems to have stalled in 2005. Content analysis also shows there is little of what we most would think of as original reporting in blogs. Yet they often write about events outside the purview of the mainstream press. How ultimately do you think blogs and other citizen media will affect news reporting in America? Will we ever see them as a more significant, or even equally important part of the mainstream American news diet as traditional journalism?

Reply: Your questions are fairly dripping with agenda. You seem to be trying to push a worldview that says that blogs and online video are on the decline – so pay no mind to them – and that what journalism needs is more staff. Sorry, but that attitude is what is putting American journalism in peril. Head, meet sand. . . .

You – like so many journalism conferences these days – make the mistake of trying to turn this discussion into a cable news shoutfest: blogs vs. mainstream media! Enough! The right question to ask is how blogs and mainstream media can work together to improve journalism and an informed society. You should be asking how any mainstream journalist could possibly imagine not doing his or her job without the help of the public through blogs. . . .

Question: Do you think the economic model of the Internet has to shift from an advertising based model to something else for traditional journalism to survive at a level that we have become accustomed to? If so, do you have any thoughts on what that new model might be?

Reply: And why is the standard the “level that we have become accustomed to”? I’m sorry to be such a curmudgeon about the curmudgeonly art of journalism, but that is precisely the attitude that, I believe, could be the death of our beloved craft. Your words presume an agenda of trying to preserve a past rather than trying to imagine a future. . . .

Much more and less pissy comment from Media Bloggers’ Bob Cox, Dan Gillmore, Jay Hamilton of Duke University, and Lee Rainie of Pew.

  • http://www.danblank.com Dan Blank

    It’s fascinating to me the obsession people have with the tool itself. “Blogs” are not the answer. Neither is RSS, Wiki’s, Podcasts, or anything else you can come up with. The goal is not the tool. The goal is serving your audience better.

    Blogs are simply a nimble way to communicate in a language that may be more accessible to your audience, and give them a chance to be involved too, through comments.

    This tool and others has led to an explosion of interest in reading, in the search for truth, and the ability for anyone to have a voice. I had always thought these were the goals of journalists. When I see them balk at how the online explosion has left them sidelined a bit, I question whether they really fear a loss of journalistic values, or a loss of ego-driven pride.

    To be fair, this is a time of huge transitions to journalists and media in general. Some structures are not changing quickly enough, and their is an understandable fear of changing too fast in the wrong direction. Likewise, not all journalists feel the same way about these issues.

    My point is that I would have thought that the Internet would have vindicated journalists. It seems that for some, the opposite is true.

  • http://www.tyndallreport.com Andrew Tyndall

    Obviously, journalism represents only a small portion of the content in the blogosphere, just as newscasts only represent a fraction of television or political talkshows only a part of what is available on radio.

    So on the face of it contrasting “blogs” (a medium) with “traditional journalism” (content) is a lazy formulation.

    Even granting the benefit of the doubt to the Project for Excellence in Journalism, namely that when it refers to “blogs” it means “blogs whose content concerns the day’s news, current affairs and public policy” Jarvis is correct in alluding to a tired, false “cable news shoutfest” dichotomy of citizen-amateurs-vs-credentialed-professionals.

    But let’s look at blogging another way: as a formal medium. What form of content can blogs uniquely offer? The answer is links and comments.

    Stated in the language of journalism, that means blogs provide new and improved transparency of sourcing and immediate interaction for feedback and factchecking.

    Some journalism is better suited for a magazine or the radio or on broadcast TV or newspapers…and some journalism (both by citizen amateurs and credentialed professionals) is better suited for the medium of the Weblog — that journalism where transparent sourcing and immediate feedback are at a premium.

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  • Brian O’Connell

    …for traditional journalism to survive at a level that we have become accustomed to….

    They should sue their former readers for alimony.

  • Peter

    So blog readership stalled in 2005. What was newspaper readership doing in 2005?

  • http://www.pressthink.org Jay Rosen

    Very little original reporting in blogs.

    Blogs are opinion, not reporting.

    “Blog” means: no reporting.

    Reporting? Bloggers don’t do that.

    Reporting, reporting, reporting. None, none, none.

    Hey, don’t get me wrong, blogs are great. But there’s no reporting in them.

    Right, bloggers? You don’t do reporting… Right?

    Yo, bloggers: care to comment on how little reporting there is in your blogs?

    Without the reporting from Big Media bloggers would have little to write about because (and we’ve covered this…) bloggers don’t do reporting.

    Reporting? Blogs? Fuggeddaboutit!

    Very little original reporting in blogs,– very, very little.

    Whew.