Carving the turkey
: Jay Rosen stands back and gives a sage (of course) response to the pressthink (and politicalthink) that swirled around Bush’s trip to Baghdad. He says (to inadequately summarize it) that we can’t separate the event from its coverage — “its legitimacy lies outside the logic of ‘things happen and we cover them.'” Go read his piece first.
I’ll try to take it one step farther: In this age of transparency — of constant cable news and C-Span’s unblinking eye and instant online wire reports and mobile alerts and full transcripts online and more video here and weblog links to coverage everywhere and automated Google news searches and, in sum, the commoditization of news — the role of the newsman has utterly changed … but that news hasn’t caught up to the newsmen yet.
It used to be, we depended on them to tell us what is happening (and some prided themselves on doing it better than others). Those days are over. Toast. “What happened” is the commodity; we can find out what happened anywhere anytime.
The pressthink — if I can borrow Jay’s term — evident in this tale is of pressthinkers still believing that we need them to report this news and that they stand in the position of gatekeeper and newsfeeder and grand informer. They don’t want to admit that’s over.
Bush could have put a webcam on his jet and we all would have watched. He could have put pix up on a weblog and we all would have clicked.
The press crews add very little value to that as things stand now.
So their only option besides going along is to try to spoil the trip before and complain about it afterwards. The former isn’t an option — see the Star Trek prime directive; do not interfere in history. So the latter is all that’s viable — whine and stomp feet.
All this indicates the extinct pressthink of the transluscent age.
We are now in the age of transparency: We can all see all the news and judge for ourselves what’s news and what isn’t, what’s real and what isn’t, what’s important and what isn’t, and often what’s true and what isn’t.
Do reporters and editors still have a role in the news we can all see (as opposed to the news they dig up)? Don’t know yet, do we?
: UPDATE: Some good comments on Jay’s post over at Pressthink. This from Lou Boccardi, recently retired president of the AP:
We ought to be a little less frenzied about the Bush Baghdad journey. It doesn’t represent the end of journalism as we know it. Nor is it the last time we’ll all turn out to cover something important that might also have a political value to the player(s). The secrecy was reasonable. And the idea floated in some quarters that we might somehow have had a duty to leak and thus blow the trip because it was a photo op is loopy. If presidential “disappearances” start to become routine, then we have a different issue to deal with and I’m sure the press en masse would rise up, and properly so. This was one of a kind.
And this from Rivlax:
As a gubernatorial press secretary many moons ago my boss decided on a spur-of-the-moment tour of state prisons. No press, he said. There’ll be hell to pay, I told him. Don’t care, he responded. So we went. His goal was to get information he couldn’t get from an announced visit. What was the press’ reaction? They were furious. But it was a big story all the same. The same would have happened with Bush’s trip. The press wasn’t needed. I suspect the pool was invited more to prevent the whining later and less to ensure coverage.