: I was digging into the State of the News Media report, already much-linked, and found this nugget about the relationship of news media to its public:
The problem is a disconnection between the public and the news media over motive. Journalists believe they are working in the public interest and are trying to be fair and independent in that cause. This is their sense of professionalism.
The public thinks these journalists are either lying or deluding themselves. The public believes that news organizations are operating largely to make money and that the journalists who work for these organizations are primarily motivated by professional ambition and self-interest.
I believe that if you took some of that “public” and sat them down in a bar with some of those from “news media,” they’d all in all end up liking … or perhaps respecting … or at least not disdaining … and maybe better understanding each other. The problem is that there is a separation between the “news media” and its “public.”
That is perhaps the greatest lesson I have learned in weblogs; it was the first lesson I writing this blog: I had a new relationship with my “public.” (And I’ll quit the obnoxious quote marks now.)
The public spoke; it argued; it agreed; it disagreed; it could be friendly; it could be generous; it could be trollish; it had names. But I now had a relationship with my public I’d never had before. And that public had a relationship with me it never could have before, when I was merely printed on paper: a two-way relationship.
You think I’m going to say that blogs are going to solve all this and if everybody just had a blog (or sat in a bar together) we’d all get along.
Fooled ya. No, I’m just arguing the virtues of transparency. At Bloggercon last year, the audience demanded — or at least suggested strongly — transparency from Len Apcar and the New York Times; but Apcar, as I remember, was openly skittish about the idea of sharing the process of news. At that time, that seemed at least reasonable; why have people fight with you over what you almost did when they’are already fighting with you over what you did?
But when you are not transparent, people will assume their definition of the worst. If you are transparent, you show the effort you put behind trying to serve them and you also give them the respect to include them in the process. That is a moral of weblogs. It’s a moral the news business needs to figure out.
: UPDATE: As Hypergene says, transparency is also served when news sources get blogs and tell their sides of stories directly. Witness Mark Cuban’s blog, on which he answers newspaper writers.