Yahoo’s news

Xeni Jardin takes on Yahoo’s news ethics in an LA Times opinion piece, first on their behavior in China and then — as I did — arguing that by hiring Kevin Sites to cover wars, they are turning news into entertainment, they are going just for the bloody bits.

But what’s really behind this is the same question raised by Bill Keller of the NY Times, below, and sloughed off by Terry Semel of Yahoo last week:

Is Yahoo in the news business? Xeni says yes and so their behavior is journalistically unethical. Keller seems to say no because news is just a boutique to them. Semel says no because he doesn’t want to be in trouble.

We all get in trouble if we define journalism too narrowly, especially when the medium that Yahoo depends upon opens up journalism to all, to anyone who finds out information and now can inform the world. If we try to limit the defniition, then we’ll find government trying to limit rights and protections to the few — with the power to take it away from them. If we try to limit the definition, then some people will try to argue that they don’t have to worry about ethics and trust. Funny, people said that’s why we have to worry about bloggers. But it seems we have to worry about big, new media companies, instead.

  • ADam Broitman

    Excuse me but, when was news not entertainment? What is the difference between CNN hiring journalists and Yahoo doing so when in the end the goal of the network is to attract viewers and subsequently advertisers. I think that in the modern media landscape the most that we can ask is for networks (be them online or otherwise) to be cautious in who they hire and make sure that the journalistic integrity of that person is in tact. To be honest, i an a blogcentric world it is nice to see Terry Semel trying to get some “real” news on his portal as opposed to letting hoards of amateur bloggers run the show.
    This is the future, sink or swim!

  • Rachel Cohen

    Xeni’s just cranky that they didn’t hire her. Her constant self-promotion underlies everything she does–her Day by Day pieces are just her chatting with her friends–like when she interviewed Sean Bonner about Zabu-Search.

  • Jimmy

    Anyone who has taken the time to actually read Kevin Sites postings so far would find it difficult call it entertainment, or decide that it focuses on just “the bloody bits.” Sites reporting has been some of the best I’ve seen about the more devastated and war-torn parts of the world and little to none of of it is morbidly fascinated with the bloody bits. I think it’s a positive thing to see in-depth reporting on a subject like this. Unlike, say, the broadcast and cable news shows who spend more time worrying about Tom Cruise and Katie Holmes, and why Britney Spears pulled her bra auction. Ganted, if Yahoo wants to be a news organization, so be it, but admit it; however, to dismiss good work just because you didn’t think of it first is just being a whiny bitch. Of course, I’ve become a fan of Site journal so my opinion is biased.

  • Sort of off-topic: Has anybody else seen that “Filthy Rich: Cattle Drive” show on E!? Semel’s ugly daughter is one of the participants, and was so odious as to make me hate both her and, by transitivity, her father.