The death of anchors = the end of one-way news (and what to do about it)

The death of anchors = the end of one-way news (and what to do about it)

: Yes, the exit of Dan Rather, stage left, spotlight off, tail twixt legs, marks the death of the anchor, the extinction of the trusted news star.

But it’s more than that. It’s the toppling of journalism on a pedestal. It’s the end of news as a lecture. It’s the death of one-way media.

That is what anchors embodied. And that is what we, the people formerly known as viewers/listeners/readers in the audience, have rejected.

We rejected the old system of trust: If we trusted the person, it was thought, then we trusted what he said. Anchors equaled automatic authority. But no more.

Oh, trust is still important. In fact, in this new, distributed world of ours, it is even more important. Trust is our organizing principle. Trust is what makes weblogs, Technorati, eBay, Craigs List, RSS, chat, and email work: We pay attention to those we trust; we filter out the rest. We each decide whom to trust; it’s no longer decided for all of us.

We control trust. And so that is how we operate with news, too: We can get the source material on the web or via CSpan to judge the facts for ourselves; we can follow the track record of reporters and news organizations to see when they mess up and whether we should believe them; we follow the links of those who have not led us astray; we can see who is being transparent and who is not and judge accordingly; we decide what stories are important for us; we get to question those in power thanks to new media. We are in control.

The idea that we should just sit there and watch as someone reads the news to us is — now that we see the alternatives — quaint at best, condescending at worst. Why the hell should we ever have let Dan Rather decide what’s important to us and how we should should look at it? How did we ever tolerate listening to the news from him without taking the opportunity to talk back?

And just look at what happened when we did talk back: Dan Rather could not stand the idea that bloggers in PJs could have facts and a voice; he attacked those who only tried to help him get to the truth; he showed that he cared more about his position on the pedestal than about the truth or serving his public. This led to his downfall. Dan Rather wasn’t made to listen, only to speak. When he was forced to listen, it destroyed him.

All this is not to say that reading the news is outmoded, or that video is obsolete. Hardly. They’re convenient means of communication. There will always be on-camera anchors and reporters, prettier than your average bear. That’s not the old-fashioned part of network news.

No, instead, it’s the top-down, one-way, one-size-fits-all news-extruding machine that’s ready for the mothballs. We’ve seen how this sausage is made and we’re not swallowing it anymore. It’s the old view of delivering the news that’s antiquated. We no longer wait for the news to come to us; now the news waits for us to go get it. We are in control.

So don’t think for a second, CBS News, that finding the right face with the right voice will solve your problems. It only extends them. Same for you, NBC and ABC and, for that matter, cable news.

No, you have to explode your newsroom, tear apart your shows, rethink news to turn it into a conversation, and hand over control to the people you used to read to if you want to survive in our new world. And it’s not hard.

  • We are in control.
    If the old system has been replaced, it’s been replaced with something quite similar to the old system. The top-tier bloggers have more influence than similar groups of ordinary citizens had before, but the people lower down the food chain still don’t have much or any control. If a top-tier blogger won’t pick up a story – or gives a false impression about a topic – what’s someone lower down the food chain to do? The same thing as before, just using different technologies.

  • MsPell

    I hope we stay in control
    we have to stand up to anyone who would try to change the internet
    the internet is the bigest part of our free speach
    and our control

  • pdq332

    I’ll bet CBS puts a right-leaning anchor in there. They’d be smart to do it given the demographics and the over-saturation of left-leaning MSM outlets.

  • Dan Rather may be going – but I’ll be surprised that the idea of a blogging community overturning the news corporates is anything but a utopian dream.
    As with any industry, it’s a situation of a consumer having a need that is attended to and delivered upon. That model hasn’t substantially changed here, so it would be surprising if the format doesn’t simply change nuances, rather than overall strategy.

  • Jim S

    I see the problem with the model you’re discussing as being one of time. Who has enough of it to really wade through everything that would be available and determine its accuracy? Unless there is a corresponding rise of a new kind of “editor” who will critique sites and provide information on what is or isn’t accurate in their coverage and is trusted by large numbers of people we will descend further into an uncivil excuse for a society where one side has such a radically different viewpoint because of different sources of information that we won’t be able to achieve enough of a consensus on anything to accomplish things that need to be done. For this reason I consider the nature of the fragmentation of the media to be one of the great weaknesses of the system already. Why? The tendency of large sections of the American public to gravitate towards those outlets that just reinforce their own prejudices.
    In spite of the criticisms of it by the conservatives here and elsewhere I like listening to NPR. Why? An example of their level of “bias” can be best displayed by their idea of a talk show, Talk Of The Nation. It’s not some personality ranting about his viewpoints and having callers who (the majority of the time) just call in to agree. Whenever they cover a subject they have guests representing both sides of the argument and some callers agree with one and some agree with the other. Some don’t agree with either. I like that.

  • It’s the end of news as a lecture.
    And now we have the lectures of Jeff Jarvis and other media elites who want us to trust them. Jeff suggests the Internet will become the next trust source for news through slicing, adding, linking, and listening. Nice ideas. But without facts that explore all sides of an issue within each of these elements, we merely have the blogoshpere as it presently exists. I don’t see that taking over The Big Four – we’ve got too many yahoos with an axe to grind in this game.
    Jeff and all the others have their biases. What makes a better informed public is programs whose talking heads/voices put aside such biases and present both sides of an issue. Fox News and most of talk radio fails this crucial test. Conservatives rant against NPR, but Jim S is right on the money – they present both sides of an issue in their discussions with people that are knowledgeable (even experts) on the topic at hand. You can’t say that about Fox or Limbaugh or Weiner/Savage or O’Reilly or the shouting heads that litter cable TV. Today’s big-name conservatives don’t like to calmly explore both sides of an issue. They’d rather rant at the “academic elites” that do.

  • Charlie Miami

    Jeff is right, we are now more in control. The problem with that is that people are now more and more likely to turn to the media that they feel comfortable with and are then never challenged by new ideas. That is a big reason for our new divided nation – no one is goes outside of their echo chamber.

  • p

    Excellent post … A true insight … Fears that blogs will assume and hold the old power structure is off-target … the fact that we can get to orginal source documents is the factor that permits Trust to be managed … In addition, the Internet permits two-way communciations … I am bullish that blogs will evolve in a manner that engenders trust and two-way communciations …

  • Scott

    I don’t mine prepared news when it is done right.
    Dan Rather did a piss poor job and overshadowed anyone elses attempt to find the real story. Network news is worthless these days. Anyone who has watched Jon Stewart for a week understands that, but news is just a dash for rating these days.
    I don’t think blogging is the answer to all of our problems. Bloggers tend to do a good job of digging up rumors and secrets, but rarely take the time to do an in-depth report and see the whole picture.
    I’ll happily listen to NPR news or watch PBS news documentaries as long as they retain their current high quality (congress keep your hands off of PBS!). I’ll also pledge my money to support such efforts.