Journalistic narcissism

At the Aspen Ideas Festival this week, Andrew Sullivan said, “Journalism has become too much about journalists.”

True. It’s not just that newspapers are covering their own demise as thoroughly as Michael Jackson’s. This is about the mythology that news needs newspapers – that without them, it’s not news.

In an offhand reference about the economics of news, Dave Winer wrote, “When you think of news as a business, except in very unusual circumstances, the sources never got paid. So the news was always free, it was the reporting of it that cost…. The new world pays the source, indirectly, and obviates the middleman.” This raises two questions: both whether news needs newsmen and whether journalists and news organizations deserve to be paid.

I tweeted Winer’s line and Howard Weaver then started a discussion with this tweet: “Is it news if it’s not reported? I don’t think so.” I don’t think he’s saying that the reporting needs to be done by a professional, but he is saying that reporting is what makes news news. Does news need the middleman?

Steve Yelvington just tweeted that “The Washington Post ‘salon’ debacle is a clash between myth and reality on so many levels: ‘the select few who will actually get it done.’” Being needed.

The realization of that myth – the myth of necessity – hit me head-on when I read an unselfconsciously narcissistic feature in The New York Times this week about the room where the 4 p.m. news meeting is held. Guardian editor Alan Rusbridger has likened that meeting to a “religious ceremony.” The Times feature certainly acted as if it were taking us inside the Pope’s chapel: “The table was formidable: oval and elegant, with curves of gleaming wood. The editors no less so: 11 men and 7 women with the power to decide what was important in the world.”

Behold the hubris of that: They decide what is important. Because we can’t. That’s what it says. That’s what they believe.

I was trained to accept that myth: that journalists decide what’s important, that it’s a skill with which they are imbued: news judgment. I worked hard to gain and exercise that judgment. The myth further holds that no judgment of importance is more important than The Times’; that’s why, every night, it sends out to the rest of newspaperdom its choices. News isn’t news until it’s reported and it’s not important until The Times says so.

But why do we need anyone to tell us what’s important? We decide that. What’s important to you isn’t important to me. Why must we all share the same importance? Because we all shared the same newspaper. There is the wellspring of the myth: the press.

I am trying to cut through these many myths about newsso I can reexamine them. In something I’m writing now for another project, I say: “To start, it is critical that we understand and question every assumption that emerged from old realities – for example, that news should be a once-a-day, one-for-all, one-way experience just because that’s what the means of production and distribution of the newspaper and the TV broadcast necessitated.” And: “Owning the printing press or broadcast tower used to define advantage: I own and control the means of production and distribution and you and don’t, which enables me to decide what gets distributed and forces you to come to me if you want to reach the public through news or through advertising, whose price I alone set with little or no concern for competition.”

No more. The press has become journalism’s curse, not only because it now brings a crushing cost burden but also because it led to all these myths: that we journalists own the news, that we’re necessary to it, that we decide what’s reported and what’s important, that we can package the world for you every day in a box with a bow on it, that what we do is perfect (with rare, we think, exceptions), that the world should come to us to be informed, that we deserve to be paid for this service, that the world needs us.

The journalistic narcissism that extrudes from the press extends to so much of the journalist’s relationship with her public. Jay Rosen just tweeted his headline for Plain Dealer Connie Schultz’ return of spitball (below): “A blogger was mean to me so that means I’m right.” John McQuaid tweeted that he feared I was “only abetting Connie Schultz’s effort to turn a real debate into a bloggers vs. MSM culture war.” He’s right. Schultz didn’t address the substantive objections to her hare-brained and dangerous scheme; she made it about her.

Oh, I know, this is all a big set-up for your punchline: A blogger is talking about narcissism? Heh. Isn’t blogging the ultimate narcissism? But who called it that, who made that judgment? Journalists, as far as I’ve seen. When they talk, it’s important. When we talk, it’s narcissism. What we say can’t be important – can it? – because we’re not paid and printed. But I don’t want to replay the blog culture war, which I keep hoping is over. I want to question assumptions, to find the cause and effect of myths.

And that’s what Winer is trying to do when he reminds us that the important people in news are the sources and witnesses, who can now publish and broadcast what they know. The question journalists must ask, again, is how they add value to that. Of course, journalists can add much: reporting, curating, vetting, correcting, illustrating, giving context, writing narrative. And, of course, I’m all in favor of having journalists; I’m teaching them. But what’s hard to face is that the news can go on without them. They’re the ones who need to figure out how to make themselves needed. They can and they will but they can no longer simply rest on the press and its myths.

: LATER: Good discussion in the comments already. I particularly like this from Craig Stoltz:

At the WaPo, where I used to work, the story conference room was decorated with (1) the metal frame with sticks of backwards type that was used to print the “Nixon Resigns” front page [it is said that that wall had to be reinforced to bear its weight--myth?]; (2) a framed Post advertisement from the early 70s reading “I got my job from the Washington Post,” which Gerald Ford was good-natured enough to sign; (3) two columnar shelves of important tomes written by Post staffers over the years; and, yes, (4) a polished wooden table whose craftsmanship and sheen suggested the Pedestal of Truth.

No coffee was allowed in the room.

Confession: Every time I was in that room I felt inspired, breathed in the myth, absorbed the history and mission that made the Post such an extraordinary institution [and which makes these week's "salon" disaster so heartbreaking].

That room and the myth it conveyed may have made me a better journalist.

I suspect it made me a more arrogant, and therefore ultimately vulnerable one.

: In Twitter, Aaron Huslage asks: “How is curating journalism different from the NYT editorial meeting? isn’t it, at heart, picking ‘what’s important’?” And I responded: “Now it doesn’t have to be one-for-all. And it’s not necessary what’s ‘important’ (as the NYT says) but ‘relevant’ (Google’s goal).”

: Juan Antonio Giner takes apart the Times room: an analog space for a digital age.

: Tim Russo responded to Schultz, though she refused to respond to him.

: ANOTHER great comment, this one from David Weinberger:

May I add one more, related, myth to your collection, Jeff? Here goes: It’s possible to _cover_ the day’s events.

This is just a different way of putting your formulation “One man’s [sic] noise is another man’s news.” But I think it’s worth calling out since the promise of global sufficiency is a big part of traditional newspapers’ promise of value to us: “Read us once in the morning, and after going through our pages, you will know everything you need to know.” (Do radio stations still make the ridicule-worthy “Give us 8 minutes and we’ll give you the world?” claim.) Yeah, no newspaper would ever maintain that claim seriously if challenged — they know better than their readers (or at least they used to) what they’re leaving out — but it’s at the base of the idea that reading a paper is a civic duty. The paper doesn’t give us _everything_ but it gives us _enough_ that reading one every day makes us well-informed citizens.

The notion that newspapers give you your daily requirement of global news — which works to wondering, along with Howard, if there is such a thing as “news” — seems to me to be as vulnerable as the old idea of objectivity. Like objectivity: (1) It’s presented as one of the basic reasons to read a newspaper; (2) it hides the fact that it’s based on cultural values; and (3) it doesn’t scale well in the age of the Net.

Ultimately, this myth is enabled –as so many of the myths of news and knowledge are — by paper. Take away the paper and the newspaper doesn’t become a paperless newspaper. It becomes a network. That’s what’s happening now, IMO. From object to network … and networks are far far harder to “monetize” (giving myself a yech here) than objects….

: In the comments, Jay Rosen says narcissism is an even more apt metaphor than (he thinks) I know:

Jeff: You should improve your grasp of what narcissism is. The term is commonly used to mean self-absorption or excessive self-regard (“it’s about meeeee”) but that’s a subtle misunderstanding. True narcissists have a weak concept of self because they often don’t know they leave off and the world begins. In the clinical sense, key features of a narcissistic personality disorder are grandiosity and a lack of empathy.

I’m not trying to correct you; I’m saying that if you look closer at what pathological narcissism is, beyond its pop culture meaning, this might allow you to strengthen your critique. For example, equating newspapers with democracy is grandiose in the extreme, right? The prize culture could be connected to the “need for admiration,” and so on. It may be a better metaphor than you have let on here– and worth developing. Cheers.

  • http://editor.blogspot.com Howard Weaver

    You interpreted my [abbreviated] intention about “reporting” correctly, Jeff; thanks.

    Of course “news” doesn’t have to be professionally reported to exist, but I continue to maintain that it has to be reported. Otherwise, *everything* is news.

    While that’s correct in some obscure semantic or etymological sense, it would also mean that *nothing* is news. Something distinguishes “news” from “events.” They are not the same; if they are, we’re so completely post-modern, disaggregated and disconnected that nothing matters.

    I also believe that the talent, intelligence and experience of the observer/reporter matters. If she’s better than average, the report will be more useful and more important, in the aggregate.

    Elitist? Well, Sarah Palin would think so.

    • Andy Freeman

      > I also believe that the talent, intelligence and experience of the observer/reporter matters. If she’s better than average, the report will be more useful and more important, in the aggregate.

      Yes, but what does that have to do with journalists?

      Surely no one believes that journaliststs are more likely to have above average “talent, intelligence, and experience”….

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  • http://scripting.com/ Dave Winer

    Good piece. I wrote my own followup this morning.

    http://www.scripting.com/stories/2009/07/04/isItNewsIfItsNotReported.html

    Synopsis: Makes sense that Howard sees it the way he does, but it also makes sense that I see it the way I do.

    I started blogging because there was news happening that the press refused to report.

    I followed Scoop Nisker’s edict: If you don’t like the news, go out and make some of your own.

    Very powerful idea, and a double entendre that applies to this discussion.

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  • http://www.wordyard.com Scott Rosenberg

    Howard: Everything *is* news. To someone.

    The job of editors used to be figuring out which bits of news *were* news to a big chunk of their readers.

    Today that job has begun to erode.

    The interesting tension today lies between two phenomena:

    On the one hand, Jeff’s “we decide what’s important” (and Dave Winer’s “I decide what’s news”), which are both emphatically accurate descriptions of their situations.

    On the other, the equally accurate position so many people still find themselves in — of not enough time to “decide what’s news” for themselves.

    There’s still a place for editors, filters, call ‘em what you will. But we all have the chance to take on this role now. It’s less and less limited to the mandarins in the 4 o’clock news meeting, as Jeff says. We may not all want to do this for ourselves, but we can do it for each other, we can choose from a much wider set of options, and we can do it inside or outside of the professional system.

  • http://teachj.wordpress.com Teach_J

    Even back when I was in j-school, I always felt that the print only majors always felt superior to those of us who dabbled in video, photography or design. Newspapers were the king. Now they are seeing that other forms of journalism may even have more power than print.

    I still believe in print, but the traditional newspaper is going to have to make a lot of changes in order to adapt to a new media world. It is going to take a multi-platform approach and solid content that people actually want to pay for (either directly, subscription or ads) if they are going to make it.

  • http://2ohreally.com Craig Stoltz

    Jeff–

    Smart and dead-on re: MSM, as usual.

    Regarding The Myth:

    At the WaPo, where I used to work, the story conference room was decorated with (1) the metal frame with sticks of backwards type that was used to print the “Nixon Resigns” front page [it is said that that wall had to be reinforced to bear its weight--myth?]; (2) a framed Post advertisement from the early 70s reading “I got my job from the Washington Post,” which Gerald Ford was good-natured enough to sign; (3) two columnar shelves of important tomes written by Post staffers over the years; and, yes, (4) a polished wooden table whose craftsmanship and sheen suggested the Pedestal of Truth.

    No coffee was allowed in the room.

    Confession: Every time I was in that room I felt inspired, breathed in the myth, absorbed the history and mission that made the Post such an extraordinary institution [and which makes these week's "salon" disaster so heartbreaking].

    That room and the myth it conveyed may have made me a better journalist.

    I suspect it made me a more arrogant, and therefore ultimately vulnerable one.

  • http://www.natalidelconte.com Natali Del Conte

    On the second day of the Personal Democracy Forum in New York last week, Michael Wesch said something to the effect of: Narcissism in social media can lead to political disengagement.

    Narcissism is an interesting motivation for making bloggers blog, Twitterers tweet, and journalists insist on your ear. The problem then becomes the noise. Narcissism encourages so many messages that there is too much noise for the average news consumer to synthesize. If journalists can figure out how to interpret the noise in a meaningful (and unbiased) way, then I believe that they can stay relevant and necessary. I’m just not completely sure how to do that yet.

    • http://www.buzzmachine.com Jeff Jarvis

      But what’s narcissism and who decrees it such? That’s what’s occurring to me here. You talking about your kids will seem narcissistic to others, not to their grandparents. One man’s noise is another man’s news.

      • http://www.natalidelconte.com Natali Del Conte

        Narcissism may be the motivation but that doesn’t make the “noise” less important. An opinion is an opinion. The challenge is making sense of it all.

  • http://www.incilin.blogspot.com Incilin

    The real reason you still need a journalist is because is sources were the ones doing the reporting, of course they would become like PR agents and only give their side of the story. The journalist is needed for that counter-spin because the journalists themselves don’t have a vested interested in what’s being reported. A journalist is inherently on the side of the public while the source is only looking out for themselves.

    • http://www.buzzmachine.com Jeff Jarvis

      Right. Reporting is asking the questions people don’t want to answer, eh?

      • zywotkowitz

        By that measure, there’s almost no reporting going on about the Obama administration and its activities.

        For example, find me some “reporting” on the sudden firing of the Americorps Inspector General.

    • http://www.societymatters.org Alan Mairson

      You write: “…journalists themselves don’t have a vested interested in what’s being reported…>>
      This idea that journalists can really report objectively has seen better days, hasn’t it? …. I’m reminded of David Weinberger’s oft-quoted line from PDF09: “Transparency is the new objectivity.” If journalists really have no “vested interests,” why would there be a need for transparency?

      • http://www.ktvz.com Barney Lerten

        Because… those who see lack of objectivity, the vast majority anyway, usually are upset because the news isn’t being slanted in THER DIRECTION. That’s what I’ve found, anyway.
        So many people in this digital age want to read only the news that reinforces their stereotypes. Heaven forbid the article makes you think about the OTHER side, to question your views, to say, “Hmm, they have a point, too.” To make gray out of back-and-white. Becaues gray quite often is TRUTH, whether we who enjoy the 55-minute CSI wrapup of a case/issue want to believe it or not.

      • Andy Freeman

        > Because… those who see lack of objectivity, the vast majority anyway, usually are upset because the news isn’t being slanted in THER DIRECTION.

        Keep believing that.

        BTW – how are you measuring “objectivity” and “slant”?

        > Heaven forbid the article makes you think about the OTHER side

        And what is MSM “making us think” about Obama?

  • http://herestothegoldendays.blogspot.com Jennifer

    This is a great post! I agree with you on a lot of these points. I want to be a journalist, because I enjoy writing on things that I see and experience. When I blog, it is all first-person, but when I write seriously, I usually do it from a third-person perspective. Really, when you think about it, no perspective at all. I simply report my angle and subject. But I suppose, when you have an angle, there is a perspective. Can never really take the reporter out of the report, huh?

  • http://LincolnParishNewsOnline.wordpress.com Walter Abbott

    “I was taught when I was a young reporter that it’s news when we say it is. I think that’s still true — it’s news when ‘we’ say it is. It’s just who ‘we’ is has changed”
    David Carr (b. 1956), US Journalist. CNN “Reliable Sources”, Sunday, August 10, 2008.

    “News is what your editor says it is unless the publisher says it isn’t.”
    Carl Liberto (b. 1949), US Journalist. Interview, Tuesday, February 3, 2009.

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  • Apurv

    Journalists and Editors were needed to separate the ‘news from the noise’ because there wasn’t space enough for both to fit in a newspaper. Now that the Internet has removed that space constraint, this clean-up artist can easily be replaced by technology and increasingly intelligent algorithms. Let people set their own parameters of what they want to read and let those algorithms draw each one’s idea of news to them.

    Today, the tools, ease, cost and anonymity of creating written news comes so cheap that the Sources can make journalists redundant. We’ll see a day when similar ease reaches the video medium too. Will news channels/radio stations then feel the same heat that newspapers do?

  • http://scripting.com/ Dave Winer

    They should engrave a quote in the pedestal of truth…

    “The graveyards are full of indispensable men. ”

    http://en.wikiquote.org/wiki/Charles_de_Gaulle

  • Danno

    “Behold the hubris of that: They decide what is important. Because we can’t. That’s what it says. That’s what they believe.”

    Jeff, you’re only restating what many of us have known for decades. Take your observation and pair it with Pew Research’s finding that four times more journalists identify as liberal that conservative and you have a much larger problem than quibbling over who are legit sources for news and who isn’t.

    Funny how so many in the left-leaning blogosphere simply brush facts of bias aside, or make ridiculous assertions that journalists are taking their marching orders from capitalistic, politically conservative corporate chieftains. How many Obama magazine covers so far?

    And in case anyone hasn’t noticed, how much reporting to we actually get from the MSM??? It seems to me we see/hear a helluva lot more “analysis” (opinion) and speculation from the MSM than actual reporting.

    • http://scripting.com/ Dave Winer

      “left-leaning blogosphere” — who are you talking about — that’s here, present, in this conversation? From there you go deeply off the deep end. You are angry with someone for something. Who and why?

      • Danno

        ““left-leaning blogosphere” — who are you talking about — that’s here, present, in this conversation?”

        Dave, am I missing something? Is there a rule book somewhere that says I can say anything about folks who aren’t “here, present, in his conversation”. And what bloggers do you know who don’t complain how the MSM derides them as pajama-clad know-nothings?

        “You are angry with someone for something. Who and why?”

        Angry? No. Annoyed. Yes. In your reply you completely dodged the point of my comment. The MSM is dominated by liberals – the folks who “decide what is important”.

        I find it ironic that many bloggers have suddenly discovered their elitism and are angry about their narcisscism, but never noticed they have political leanings that inundate their news coverage.

    • Paul Evans

      How odd, what I read from that report is that nearly 6 out of 10 local (not national) journalists identify themselves as moderates.

      http://www.stateofthemedia.org/2008/Journalist%20report%202008.pdf

      This was even more interesting: Internet journalists as a group tend to be more liberal than either national or local journalists. Fewer than half (46%) call themselves moderates, while 39% are self-described liberals and just 9% are conservatives.

      Hmmm, does that mean that the real problem is bloggers and not MSM? It seems, Danno, that you are more of a rarity online (as a conservative) than in print. Question: Does that make the internet more elitist than old-style media?

      • Paul Evans

        Oops, forgot to reference that the relevant material from that 2008 state of the media report is found on the bottom of page 18.

        One other little item Danno: Always helpful when you reference a report to actually supply some type of link. Otherwise someone might thing you were just making it up.

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

    @winer

    When you think of news as a business, except in very unusual circumstances, the sources never got paid. So the news was always free, it was the reporting of it that cost…The new world pays the source, indirectly, and obviates the middleman.

    Not quite. It may be true that newsgatherers have not, traditionally, paid their sources. Yet I would venture that a majority of sources consulted by traditional journalists have been paid nonetheless. If one looks at the daily output of newspapers or TV newscasts, one would note that they are riddled with the freeloading efforts of professionals seeking to secure journalistic coverage: publicists, lobbyists, public relations firms, politicians, government agencies, advertisers. The “new world” may pay the source and obviate the middleman. It also forces the source to generate its own audience, liberating the journalist from the pestering of these parasites.

    @jarvis

    I was trained to accept that myth: that journalists decide what’s important, that it’s a skill with which they are imbued: news judgment. I worked hard to gain and exercise that judgment. The myth further holds that no judgment of importance is more important than The Times’; that’s why, every night, it sends out to the rest of newspaperdom its choices. News isn’t news until it’s reported and it’s not important until The Times says so.

    A couple of quibbles. Deciding what is newsworthy is not the same as deciding what is “important.” Newsworthy also includes the sensational, the intriguing, the unexpected, the novel, the controversial, the counterintuitive and, yes, sometimes the important. But many very important things do not make news. Also I feel you overstate the agendasetting power of The New York Times, even in its own mind. In its heyday, The Times only set the news agenda for a certain class of New Yorkers. The Daily News was routinely more relevant at the city’s watercoolers–seltzer counters in those days. At the national level The Times was constrained as a newspaper and so was unable to cover visually dynamic beats as well as first the weekly news magazines and then second TV news. The Times was called the Gray Lady for its frequent, willful blindness, to all sorts of news stories that fell short of its pompous self-importance.

    That said, “news judgment” does not fall into the category of “myth.” It is a skilled craft, one that takes training, experience and even a modicum of remuneration. So…

    @weaver

    Something distinguishes ‘news’ from ‘events.’ They are not the same; if they are, we’re so completely post-modern, disaggregated and disconnected that nothing matters.

    You are so right. An event becomes “news” when raw events are structured as a story–narrativized–to emphasize not their importance but their newsworthiness. Another way to distinguish between “news” and “events” is to treat reporting as the activity of making raw events accessible to the audience acting as a community rather than to atomized individuals–a story that can be shared over the watercooler or debated at the kitchen table or summarized on Twitter or turned into a headline.

    @apurv

    Journalists and Editors were needed to separate the ‘news from the noise’ because there wasn’t space enough for both to fit in a newspaper. Now that the Internet has removed that space constraint, this clean-up artist can easily be replaced by technology and increasingly intelligent algorithms. Let people set their own parameters of what they want to read and let those algorithms draw each one’s idea of news to them.

    The activity of turning “noise” into “news” is more than cleaning away superfluous information. It is the use of “news judgment,” to use Jarvis’ phrase, to turn events into retellable stories. The initial use of that judgment may be most efficiently done by professional journalists–but they will have done their job poorly if their end product is not then easily grasped, and retold, by the amateurs in their audience. It is in this sense that Winer is right in observing that journalism has always been a pro-am activity. Not a relationship between amateur sources and professional scribes…but between professional storytellers and amateur retellers of those same stories.

  • http://takeanotherroadtoanothertime.blogspot.com/ Rus Wornom

    Hi Jeff,

    I’m not so sure about your second paragraph. From my research, I see newspapers admitting that there MAY be a crisis with the newspaper industry, while simultaneously denying that their own paper is failing. Look no further than NAA’s Newspaper Project for the dinosaurs in charge of that PR fiasco. With their blinders on, there’s only one direction they can go: down.

    You’re right on the money about the collective ego of newspapers: they still think they own the news. Hell, they’re still griping that USA Today is McJournalism — no matter that USA Today is an unqualified success story.

  • http://industry.bnet.com/technology Erik Sherman

    I think there is a lot to consider here. I also think that the same hubris in journalists is also found in a culture where individuals are ready to decide what others should and shouldn’t read, based on whether they personally consider it news or not. Although too long for a comment, I wrote a blog post: http://www.eriksherman.com/WriterBiz/2009/07/what-is-news-and-do-reporters-matter.html

  • http://inkdrainedkvetch.wordpress.com/ Wendy Parker

    “Of course, journalists can add much: reporting, curating, vetting, correcting, illustrating, giving context, writing narrative.”

    Well gee, thanks for thinking of us, Jeff, but these skills are not incidental to the process of doing the news, as you are implying here.

    The critics of journalists are so transfixed on what happens at the New York Times, the Washington Post or when people like Connie Schultz get you all worked up.

    But the truth is that most journalists I know don’t fit the monolithic portrait you paint of us. We’ve just done the work in quiet obscurity, for very little pay and crummy hours. We’re not heroes and I’m not complaining, even as our numbers are being constantly depleted.

    I long ago rid myself of the myths that you pound away at here, but your giddy eagerness to toss us and our profession on the scrap heap is more than disturbing. It’s dangerously close to advocating journalism without journalists.

    What do you think that would be like, and do you really believe it will be better than what exists now?

    • http://www.ktvz.com Barney Lerten

      I’d argue that Jeff is among those trying to help journalism adapt and transform and save itself (some would say FROM itself.)
      I was one of the only Internet-only local news reporters of this early century to earn a decent living.
      Until the cash ran out. After my boss was prodded into starting a print companion. In large part to draw the ads the online versin lacked.
      Anyway, we had a great reputation. But that alone didn’t pay the bills.
      What will in the future? Sure, there’s always been an over-attention on the Times, the Post etc. But they are not immune to us small-market folks’ troubles, nor we theirs.
      Journalism IS changing. Whether we like/want it or not. Perhaps the color Kindle 4.2 in 2014 will allow me to carry everything I want to read in one hand, with a wonderful micro-payment system so I don’t feel gouged.
      Or maybe something else. But without some advances, we indeed face ‘journalism without journalists’ – good, bad or horrifying.

  • Mike Manitoba

    My only question — and I pose this out of my own naive curiosity (feel free, Freeman, to leap in, as is your wont, with excoriating paragraphs referring to me in the third person): Technology is a fluid and slippery thing. How can you possibly create a sustainable business model for something that changes on a near-constant basis?

    • http://www.buzzmachine.com Jeff Jarvis

      One word: Google.

      • http://industry.bnet.com/technology Erik Sherman

        It is a pithy answer, but inadequate and incorrect. Google’s real business is advertising against search. At the end of 2006, ad revenue as a percentage of total revenue was about 99 percent. Last year — 97 percent. That’s clear financial evidence of a static business model, not the dynamic one you claim. That means much of the energy, resources, time, attention, and work in the company go to no business end. To put it differently, Google is even more locked into its main line of business than Microsoft is locked into Office and Windows, which together represent about 80 percent of its revenue. Yes, even stodgy Microsoft has managed to successfully create, nurture, and grow more variety in its business. And then there are IBM, HP, Oracle, Apple, and many other companies. For all its high profile and supposed acumen, Google has been amazingly poor at virtually every alternative line of business it has taken up. Amazon would have been a far superior answer.

        For Mike, the trick these companies have learned is to remember that while technology constantly shifts, the business is built on pleasing customers. Technology offers new tools to do so. When you get too enamored of the technology, you forget the business — and I’d say that in a subtle way, that’s what is happening at Google. Sure, it’s successful in getting revenue. But because it is in such a calcified state in terms of the business model and processes, a sudden big shift could prove far more disasterous there than at many companies that understand how to diversify and do more than one thing well.

    • http://semanticcaucus.blogspot.com/ Chris Baker

      The basic building blocks of technology have changed very little. The fluidity comes from finding new ways of combining, distilling, and marketing those elements. Post, text msg, comment, metadata. The key to technological innovation is simplicity. The more simple the technology the more powerful it becomes. Blogging made personal web pages explode by vastly increasing the simplicity of creating them and managing them. Twitter even more so by restricting the amount of information the messages contained.

      Natali Del Conte is right that about noise. The reporters of the future are savvy enough to harness the noise. The greater the velocity of information the more it resembles noise. What I call the tower of babel effect. The problem isn’t that journalism is dying, just that the current journalists don’t have the skills or technology to master the stream.

      There is a music in the noise; what they call the meta-game in modern poker theory. How do you distill the opinions of a billion voices? The technology to do so well hasn’t even been invented yet. Those that do will be the future’s newspapers. The master data-miners who are able to divine the collective wills of people and tie it to the actions of the powerful.

      • http://www.buzzmachine.com Jeff Jarvis

        Well said.

        It sounds too much like a self-help book, but every time I hear someone raise a problem with change (‘there’s too much stuff!’) I say to look for the opportunity (rather than trying, futilely, to stop the change).

      • http://semanticcaucus.blogspot.com/ Chris Baker

        Hostility to change is a natural, human reaction. Those of us on the nerd side have an uncommon love of recombination. It’s easy to forget that there are hundreds of communities that are being turned into dust with each spin.

        How do we help manage the flux? I think that it is an important question.

    • Andy Freeman

      > Technology is a fluid and slippery thing. How can you possibly create a sustainable business model for something that changes on a near-constant basis?

      In what sense are we using “sustainable”? In the following, I assume “profitable”.

      What would it mean if the answer was “you can’t”?

      However, the answer isn’t “you can’t”, at least not in general. But, the question suggests that Manitoba disagrees.

      Perhaps Manitoba can give us an example of three someones, companies, or industries who don’t have to deal with constant change.

      Yes, some have to deal with more rapid change than others, tech companies for example, but constant change is universal.

      • Mike Manitoba

        Wow. And to think I’d once found this particular thread enlightening. What happened in your lifetime to make you such a sad, angry, and petty human being?

      • Andy Freeman

        Huh? What’s “sad, angry, and petty” about saying that change is constant? Or is it saying that everyone has to deal with change?

        Manitoba seems to blame me for his misfortunes and/or those of his preferred way of life. Meanwhile, I’m pointing out how he can succeed.

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  • http://www.ComicsPundit.com Shawn Levasseur

    “Aspen Ideas Festival”?

    Reminds me of Harlan Ellison’s comeback to the stupid question, “Where do you get your ideas?”:

    “Schenectady”

    Maybe this should be renamed the “Schenectady Ideas Festival… relocated to Aspen” ?

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  • Charenkov

    The “noise” in supposed journalistic Signal-to-Noise ratios — is merely subjectively unwanted “signal”.

    Professional journalists ignore most genuine news “signal” due to personal incentives/disincentives and world outlook.

    Journalists should at least attempt to fundamentally & honestly communicate ‘truth’ to their audience… on whatever narrow subjects they actually report.

    That NEVER happens in commercial journalism.

    __________

    “No event is ever correctly reported in a newspaper”

    (– Eric Blair/George Orwell)

  • http://www.JohoTheBlog.com David Weinberger

    Terrific post and discussion. Thanks, Jeff.

    May I add one more, related, myth to your collection, Jeff? Here goes: It’s possible to _cover_ the day’s events.

    This is just a different way of putting your formulation “One man’s [sic] noise is another man’s news.” But I think it’s worth calling out since the promise of global sufficiency is a big part of traditional newspapers’ promise of value to us: “Read us once in the morning, and after going through our pages, you will know everything you need to know.” (Do radio stations still make the ridicule-worthy “Give us 8 minutes and we’ll give you the world?” claim.) Yeah, no newspaper would ever maintain that claim seriously if challenged — they know better than their readers (or at least they used to) what they’re leaving out — but it’s at the base of the idea that reading a paper is a civic duty. The paper doesn’t give us _everything_ but it gives us _enough_ that reading one every day makes us well-informed citizens.

    The notion that newspapers give you your daily requirement of global news — which works to wondering, along with Howard, if there is such a thing as “news” — seems to me to be as vulnerable as the old idea of objectivity. Like objectivity: (1) It’s presented as one of the basic reasons to read a newspaper; (2) it hides the fact that it’s based on cultural values; and (3) it doesn’t scale well in the age of the Net.

    Ultimately, this myth is enabled –as so many of the myths of news and knowledge are — by paper. Take away the paper and the newspaper doesn’t become a paperless newspaper. It becomes a network. That’s what’s happening now, IMO. From object to network … and networks are far far harder to “monetize” (giving myself a yech here) than objects.

    (By the way, this is what I was trying to ask in the question I horribly botched at PDF. Sigh.)

    • http://semanticcaucus.blogspot.com/ Chris Baker

      The thing that saddens me the most is the one thing that everyone seems to agree on, namely the death of the printed newspaper. From a usability perspective there is nothing better IMHO. .

      • http://www.buzzmachine.com Jeff Jarvis

        Horses were damned usable, too. And ice. And typewriters. Change happens. And wishing and nostalgia do not business models make.

      • http://www.JohoTheBlog.com David Weinberger

        Chris, I think we’ll change our minds about that as quickly as we changed our mind about CDs once iPods came out. Paper newspapers are hard to hold, hard to fold, hard to move around in (“cont’d on page E35″), smelly, smudgy, static (no video), unlinked, and wasteful. At the moment, the replacement readers are over-priced, under-sized, static, black and white, and barely-linked. But over time that’ll change, and when it does, I don’t think we’ll mourn papers for long.

      • http://semanticcaucus.blogspot.com/ Chris Baker

        Dancing animations does not translate to an improvement in my book. Videos equate to a devolving of communication. It’s no longer about ideas, but about visceral reactions. Populist yes, but not civilization creating. Perhaps Plato does translate better when read by a Fox News babe.

        Thomas Landauer’s the trouble with computers delves into the unintended consequences of technology. I would recommend anyone reading it before we start burning all the books because they’re now available on Adobe Kindle.

        The dark side of new media is the effects of speed. No focus, instant gratification, instant reaction. it’s like we are hard-wiring the ID.

        I am glad that the day when one will be unable to sit in a cafe and slowly fold over the pages of a good newspaper will come long after I am dead.

  • http://www.twitter.com/buckybit Alex Covic

    Of all people Greta Van Susteren said something worthy 39 seconds of your time

    “40 years ago it was a bunch of white guys sitting in a room in New York, deciding for 22 minutes what the American people needed to hear…”

    [source: caught on video: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=a_knJ4J0RfQ at 2:05 min - 2:44min]

    She’s not talking about newspapers, but about TV, Blogging and the Internet. Newspapers don’t matter anymore.

    The Irony of course about the death of newspapers is: we need good, well educated, trust-worthy journalists more than ever in the history of the written word! Somebody has to filter out the bullshit and make sense; deliver context of what is important and why.

    But it will not be written on a piece of paper and not even a Webpage Newspaper look-a-like as they try it right now.

    Young people don’t want to read newspapers – period. Fact. Swallow it. Live with it. The majority does not even want to read anything outside their iPhone screens larger than 140chars.

    If old (newspaper) guys understand this or not is irrelevant. They (and readers like me) will die soon and that’s the end of it.

  • http://writeslikeshetalks.com Jill

    What’s most disturbing about these frictions being discussed under the rubric of narcissism is that it’s money and information control, not news itself, news dissemination or reporting/investigation, that seem to be the biggest drivers of sniping and decision-making.

    I see that those individuals who are in traditional journalism and for whom news itself, its dissemination and the reporting and investigation of it are primary, are on Twitter, using Facebook, Ning, collaboration w/citizen journalism experiments etc. They talk with and express themselves with respect for the newcomers to the world of flagging what we think is news-whether they are just “plain” citizens, citizen journalists or converts, cross-overs and savvy, turned on by new ways of communicating what’s happening around us traditional journalists.

    The contempt that is a byproduct of the fear of losing all control and profit is what I find to be the most lethal and upsetting element of the current atmosphere around communicating what’s going on in the world. It has become the news and it is so destructive, old, petty and corrosive.

    • http://www.buzzmachine.com Jeff Jarvis

      Jill,
      Yes, the discussion is about money.

      • http://semanticcaucus.blogspot.com/ Chris Baker

        Isn’t it more about power? The ability to define what is acceptable to believe? Control the terrain and you control everything. The money is just a byproduct.

      • http://writeslikeshetalks.com Jill

        Replying to Chris –

        That’s my opinion because of the adage about those who control the information control pretty much everything.

        I was taught that by a superior in an office I worked in once, in order to convince me to keep taking notes at meetings, which I didn’t like and was well before personal computers. I’d been making moans about wanting to give the task to someone else. This woman went on to be director of Save the Children and I don’t know what else after that, but she said to me, the one who take the notes, and has the information, is the one with the power. I can’t tell you how many times over the years I’ve seen that become more and more true.

  • chuck

    Andrew Sullivan said, “Journalism has become too much about journalists.”

    Now *that’s* funny. There is no one more self absorbed and less self aware than Sullivan. I think that quote is a perfect example of why journalism and newspapers are dead: zero content.

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  • Michele

    Is anyone thinking about the average citizen, the man or woman who still picks up a paper on the way to work? I’m talking about people who do not spend hours on their computers. Where are these people getting their news now — the TV networks that fewer and fewer are watching? The supermarket checkout counter?
    Do we have a model for delivering news to them?

    • Laid Off Too

      Michele, as mentioned above, the “average citizen” of 2009 who does get a paper for their main news will be lost to attrition. I’d argue average citizens already don’t get news mainly from a print newspaper, but it’s irrelevant where the process is at the moment.
      Is this direction bad? Definitely if this citizen cannot afford a non-print newspaper alternative. My hope is online access will be more convenient and affordable for all. I believe the trend will go this way.
      Are we losing something with print newspapers disappearing? It depends who you ask. However, we’d better be prepared for it.

    • Tex Lovera

      You assume that the person picking up a newspaper IS the “average citizen”. They aren’t; not anymore, and their numbers are hemhorraging badly every day.

      How they get their “news” is really their problem.

      • http://christiandivine.wordpress.com Christian

        Spoken like a true elitist. And if po’ folk can’t afford the news? They don’t deserve it.

        The narcissism of the democratic blogger in full bloom.

  • Ericka

    I guess I’m a bit late commenting here, but I wanted to play devil’s advocate a bit. Yes, I’m sure there was quite a bit of arrogance involved in deciding the day’s news agenda but it did serve an important purpose – a unified news agenda means that people can talk to each other – even people with different interests- about the issues of the day. This is important in a democracy. There are other ways than letting the top journalists decide, but if everyone retreats to reading only the things they are already interested in that’s not very good if we need to have a national debate about anything and we want to include people who don’t read the prestige papers (online or off).

    Just to respond to Michele – the average citizen gets his/her news primarily from TV and has for quite some time – yes TV news viewership has been declining / fragmenting but it is still the #1 source for news in the U.S. – Pew’s People & The Press have data on this.

    • Andy Freeman

      > a unified news agenda means that people can talk to each other – even people with different interests- about the issues of the day.

      Nope. It only means that they can talk about the unified agenda, whether or not that has anything to do with “the issues of the day”.

      > that’s not very good if we need to have a national debate about anything and we want to include people who don’t read the prestige papers (online or off).

      They’re not “prestige papers” in any meaningful sense of the term, they’re merely dominant in media.

      And why the assumption that prestige papers are necessary an essential part of every “national debate” that we might “need to have”?

    • http://www.buzzmachine.com Jeff Jarvis

      Again, I think you’re thinking in mass-market terms. Why do we all need to talk about the same things? The same things done afffect us all. Of course, some issues rise above: the Iraq war, health care, etc. But those agendas aren’t set solely by newspaper front pages.

      • http://www.1918.com/ Phil Buckley

        I think the things you listed as “rising above” only “rise above” because the MSM tells us they do.

        For example, I have no problems with my healthcare, and never have – so to me, healthcare doesn’t even start to “rise above” my beloved Red Sox.

    • Tex Lovera

      I agree with Andy. If anything, the “prestige”papers long ago abandoned any pretense of just providing news or fostering debate, and became agenda-pushers more likely to kill debate.

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  • http://www.competitivefutures.com/blog Eric Garland

    This is truly culture shock between the 20th and 21st Centuries. Back in the 19th century, most everything was local or regional, and nobody could assemble the capital to do anything truly national. Heck, the major languages of today were splintered into regional dialects at the time – good luck doing anything for a mass audience. Then the Industrial Age lumbered by, and between railroad, radio, and factories, it became normal for everybody to be listening to the same thing, and for everything to be owned by a few guys. After all, that level of capital was enormously expensive, and you needed a sponsor. This was brand new – not the way it had always been.

    Today, we’re heading back that 19th century sentiment of regionalism and niche markets, not because of technological constraint, but this time due to a lack of constraint. This makes all those printing presses, Class A office buildings on 15th Street, and big trucks awful pricey. The culture shock here is *gasp* we don’t need a few white guys in New York and DC to own all the “capital” necessary for society to run. And is this that bad a development? It seems to me the only people hyperventilating about this are the few hundred conceited individuals who honestly believe that they are the only ones “getting it done” in society.

    Good times, good times.

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

    Jeff: You should improve your grasp of what narcissism is. The term is commonly used to mean self-absorption or excessive self-regard (“it’s about meeeee”) but that’s a subtle misunderstanding. True narcissists have a weak concept of self because they often don’t know they leave off and the world begins. In the clinical sense, key features of a narcissistic personality disorder are grandiosity and a lack of empathy.

    I’m not trying to correct you; I’m saying that if you look closer at what pathological narcissism is, beyond its pop culture meaning, this might allow you to strengthen your critique. For example, equating newspapers with democracy is grandiose in the extreme, right? The prize culture could be connected to the “need for admiration,” and so on. It may be a better metaphor than you have let on here– and worth developing. Cheers.

    • Rob Levine

      >>>True narcissists have a weak concept of self because they often don’t know they leave off and the world begins. In the clinical sense, key features of a narcissistic personality disorder are grandiosity and a lack of empathy.

      It’s hard to imagine anyone with less empathy than a tenured professor who practically cheers every time he hears about layoffs . . .

      • http://www.buzzmachine.com Jeff Jarvis

        Once again, Rob, you do not address the issues, you only attack.

        Hard to imagine an adjunct professor who can’t stick to the discussion.

      • Rob Levine

        If the issue is narcissism and its definition, I’m addressing it. Jay, who is no stranger to attacks himself, seems to be suggesting that professional reporters lacks empathy. I’m pointing out that they are not alone in that.

        • http://www.buzzmachine.com Jeff Jarvis

          No matter whom you are attacking, that is the only way you make argument here: through the attack. That is the definition of the troll. I’ve asked you to stop. I’ll ask you one last time: Stick to substance and stop attacks. I expect collegiality here as well.

      • Andy Freeman

        > It’s hard to imagine anyone with less empathy than a tenured professor who practically cheers every time he hears about layoffs .

        Jarvis doesn’t cheer. He yells “you idiots – you should be doing something profitable” and then rants about profitable things.

        It’s unclear why Levine objects to Jarvis’ yelling and rants. These layoffs come from losses. Why is it wrong for Jarvis to suggest that journalists/newspapers do things that will keep them employed/in biz?

        BTW – Does Jarvis actually have tenure?

        • http://www.buzzmachine.com Jeff Jarvis

          Yup. I learned from friend Rosen the freedom that enables.

      • http://christiandivine.wordpress.com Christian

        Exactly Rob. The weird cackling from bloggers about the dying newspapers or journalists getting laid off is the purest narcissism. Andrew Sullivan is one of those, as is Kos and Huffington. All former Republicans. Interesting that they throw themselves at the feet of the free market with lots of blathering about “Well, just start blogging and you’ll make money like ME ME ME.” They actually have no answers, just dreamy projections about the wonders of technology.

        And the leftist blogosphere is filled with this glee at job losses in print and elsewhere. They’re not progressives anyway. They’re libertarian narcissists. Ugh.

  • http://www.fluffylogic.net Tom

    I am interested in the idea that the news is free – it is reporting that costs.

    I see a parallel with education; the information needed to educate is now often free it is the expert tuition and validation that costs.

    Is it not only the reporting that costs, but the service provided here is the validation of a story/source? (Assuming they do…)

  • http://womanofexperience.blogspot.com MsRobinson

    Here in the UK, narcissism is what passes for journalism, especially as practised by a certain kind of Oxbridge educated female who is sent off to create and write about non-stories, many of which are aimed at women. I wrote this two years ago.

    http://womanofexperience.blogspot.com/2007/10/journalism-narcissism.html

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  • http://www.1918.com/ Phil Buckley

    Imagine if an everyday newspaper writer had to defend his article this way. What if 20 years ago you wrote a piece and got 100 phone calls about it within a couple of hours! It would have been a pretty remarkable article.

    Now, because JJ has built a community where people are invested in his ideas and his take on current circumstances, he can talk to a group of people that WANT HIS CONTENT.

    I didn’t find this on my own, a friend posted it in his Twitter stream which lead me here. I followed his link because I trust him, we’re in the same “tribe”. I found this because I wanted to, not because the guys at the shiny oak desk thought it was important for me to know about it.

    This post, these ideas, the way I found this article is the only way the newspapers can survive moving forward.

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  • http://www.enlightenedredneck.com Danny Glover

    If it’s narcissistic and arrogant for journalists to think they decide what’s important, it’s just as narcissistic and arrogant for the collective “citizenry” to think that it ALONE decides what’s important to THEM. That’s how we end up with 24-hour Michael Jackson coverage and a perpetual obsession with celebrity — journalists giving the people what they want.

    • Andy Freeman

      > If it’s narcissistic and arrogant for journalists to think they decide what’s important, it’s just as narcissistic and arrogant for the collective “citizenry” to think that it ALONE decides what’s important to THEM.

      Not even close.

      • Paul Evans

        People aren’t arrogant, they are just willfully ignorant. The ocean of information out there gets self-filtered down by many to only the streams that support existing points of view. Conservatives only drink at conservative fountains. Liberals only drink at liberal fountains. Both ridicule the other for drinking piss. Anyone who tries to drink from both and render an opinion on which tastes better (or that they both have the distinct flavor of horse urine) is labeled a moderate — which in current political speak is apparently the worst sort of fool.

        When I was a reporter, trying to be moderate — at least in reporting the story — was the goal. Try to get every side of the story, render them fairly and accurately, present it to the readers so they could decide. I never believed the myth of objectivity even when my editors were trying to shove it down my throat. But I did believe I could give everybody a say, while vetting all of the facts to make sure they weren’t spin or plain lies. It seemed like that was the same approach being taken by many of my colleagues.

        Today moderate seems to be a bad word. Rabidly partisan seems to be the flavor of the moment. After all, it ain’t piss if it’s the piss I like.

      • Tex Lovera

        Paul-

        You describe EXACTLY the kind of journalist we need more of.

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  • http://journalist.rsfblog.org Journalist M.F.Machado

    In Brazil, during the month of June, 2009, the Government extinguished the profession of Journalism.

    In Brazil, a Journalist Blog can be the difference between life and death for a Journalist, because, by way of his own Blog, a Journalist has the HUMAN RIGHT TO WRITE.

    Congratulations for your Freedom to Write.

    At the same time, as you are a Journalist, and thanking you in advance for your kind attention, I would like to inform you about the following subject, since it already affects Latin America, as a whole:

    “On behalf of the Constitution of Honduras, is this complaint signed by this Journalist in the FBI against Barack Hussein Obama:

    Barack Hussein Obama, in full knowledge of his falsity, and in reckless disregard of the Constitution of Honduras – BY WAY OF WHICH ZELAYA WAS IMPEACHED;

    Barack Hussein Obama, in full knowledge of his falsity, and in reckless disregard of the Constitution of Honduras – AFTER ZELAYA IMPEACHMENT – publicly stated:

    - ‘Zelaya is the President of Honduras’ –

    Barack Hussein Obama, in full knowledge of his falsity, and in reckless disregard of the Constitution of Honduras,

    FROM THEN ON supports Zelaya inconstitutional and ilegal presidency.

    Barack Hussein Obama, in full knowledge of his falsity, and in reckless disregard of the Constitution of Honduras, – FROM THEN ON IMPEACHED THE CONSTITUTION OF HONDURAS.”

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  • Andy Freeman

    So much for the idea that the Washington Post was an outlier….

    http://politics.theatlantic.com/2009/07/the_atlantic_and_salon_dinners_david_bradleys_thoughts.php

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  • Todd

    What frustrates me is the missing-the-forest-for-the-trees hairsplitting debates that journalists and journalist-wannabes engage in while ignoring the simple fact that if they bothered to do their jobs accurately and fairly they wouldn’t be so at risk of losing their jobs.

    Frankly, aside from vehement debates with other drunken virgins in solitary corners at parties, I couldn’t care less about arriving at detente over when news becomes news or when a tree falling in a forest makes noise. But I know that I don’t want to get my news from illiterate, droopy-drawered morons tweeting from their Iphones.

    I want news from professionals. Sadly, the professionals have become fishwives more focused on gossip, MJ and political correctness and not asking tough questions regardless of who’s in office. I should have seen this coming back in the late 80s in J-school, when most of the courses started revolving around “experiential” journalism and what the reporter was “feeling.”

    Bah.

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  • http://www.gaspartorriero.it/blogger.html Gaspar

    “Relevant is the new important” ;-)

    • http://www.buzzmachine.com Jeff Jarvis

      Well said. What’s relevant? What’s important to each of us.

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

        jeff — please clarify.

        You seem to be verging on saying that there is nothing that is important to society only things that are important to individuals inasmuch as each person finds a thing relevant to one’s particular circumstance.

        Yet news is a cultural production. It is the framing, prioritizing and narrativizing of events into a format that can be retold, debated and acted on by people acting socially.

        It is plausible to interpret this post as an attempt to replace the narcissism of journalists with the solipsism of individuals. I assume such a conclusion would be a misinterpretation. Please confirm.

        • http://www.buzzmachine.com Jeff Jarvis

          Andrew,
          As always, well said and a proper question.
          I’m not saying that everything that is relevant to me is about personal self-interest. I care about millions not having health insurance even though I have it myself, for example. Substitue “politics” in this discussion and its the same question and forumulation: I care about all kinds of political issues that don’t directly affect me. I don’t care about others. Those are my choices. There is no one-size-fits-all to news or politics. That was the myth of the mass production of news.

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  • http://bridgetbrown.typepad.com/viewfinder Bridget Brown

    Traditional journalists speak about subjects often assigned to them by someone else. It’s less about “me me me” than blogging just by definition. So, when the story is about themselves, it sounds like awkward navel gazing. Journalists aren’t supposed to become the story and credibility unravels when that changes.

    The debate about whether journalists are needed when information abounds will never go away. Working journalists could separate themselves from other information gatherers by becoming accredited like other professions, doctors, lawyers, engineers, etc. In order to be able to call yourself a journalist, you’d need a combination of education/residency work and then pass a standardized examination process to become licensed. Quality of news gathering would go up, as would public trust, because a journalist could be “disbarred,” so to speak, when they underperform.

    It was a successful tool for financial planners. Back when anyone could hang up a shingle and call themselves an FP it was hard for consumers to separate the good from the bad. It’s not a solution, but accreditation would help.

    Bridget Brown
    bridgetbrown.typepad.com/viewfinder

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  • Jim

    I suspect government coverage is the largest prop keeping newspapers alive. It has relevance to almost every facet of our lives, and the government forces regulation to cover it; no citizen can just walk into those press rooms. Without that cog, newspapers would lose their primary foundation to speak.

    Interestingly, it’s wikinomics that hopefully will change that. Where is the communal wiki that breaks down government by department and measures its goals, effectiveness, delivery cost, along with suggestions to improve or abolish? I can envision a template now. Think tanks, government officials and citizens would all contribute. I’m surprised no think tank with a favorite government department hasn’t started one yet. I would.

    Further, the wiki could then pressure government to share it’s measurements (which it should be doing now anyway) in public friendly formats. Measurement and feedback is one of the major issues with government today, and we have the technology and interest (see the political blogosphere) to do a great job of it, with lots of seed money to facilitate and administrate it. We might end up with 3 or 4 wikis on the same department (say, social security), from various viewpoints. But at least we’d have a way of stopping the data from moving.

    And newspapers would crash.

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  • cliff barney

    i was attracted by this paragraph:

    “But why do we need anyone to tell us what’s important? We decide that. What’s important to you isn’t important to me. Why must we all share the same importance? Because we all shared the same newspaper. There is the wellspring of the myth: the press.”

    i think there is something to be said for sharing the same newspaper. in today’s fine-grained internet coverage we all have our own private news source, tailored to our private needs or desires. the result is that we do not have a common experience of that aspect of life. to me that is a real loss.

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