Old news on old news

I just watched the third part of Frontline’s News War and found it utterly unsurprising and profoundly disappointing. It delivered the obvious narratives it wanted to deliver: a war between mainstream media and the rabble of citizen bloggers, a cultural and quality line between old media and new, and a moral battle between the business and editorial sides of the news business, as illustrated by its lionizing of deposed LA Times editors John Carroll and Dean Baquet and its demonizing of Tribune executive and now LA Times publisher David Hiller. I was part of it, briefly, to fulfill their blogger-v-MSM storyline; here is more of what I said to them. I remain disappointed that they didn’t investigate the future of journalism, the opportunities and possibilities. Instead, they played the themes we have heard again and again, as if on a Top 40 radio station: tsk-tsking the tackiness, fretting about the news that the big guys are sure we need, evil Wall Street, looney citizens. I could sit down and fisk, as we say, all its cheap shots and lazy analysis and incomplete reporting but, frankly, I don’t find it worth the effort.

  • Meanwhile, the political manuevering, postering and in-fighting rages on into the MSM night. I wish they all would just hurry up and fall on their own power-crazed swords.

    Peachtree Screed, who worked at the AJC for years, decades maybe, (now he’s seen the light and blogs the truth) has the inside southern poop here about just how off-the-charts delivering the truth of a story can be, in the bureauocratic-MSM context.

    All I can say is… something’s gotta give. It can’t go on much longer this way:


  • They’re aren’t telling the story to the 1/4 % of the population that understands the broad narrative that we do. They’re telling it to everyone else – the great majority for whom this is just not that big a deal. So naturally the top 40 approach is the one they have to take. If you want to hear more than “the themes we have heard again and again”, you should read that Jarvis guy – he writes about this stuff all the time. :)

  • Jeff, it’s too bad the Frontline show didn’t just run with your ideas. :) Honestly, your writings on the future of journalism and the news business are profoundly insightful and exciting. I love hearing about things like what’s going on at the Fort Myers News-Press and other great, forward-thinking media outlets.

    Meanwhile, on MSNBC, you can catch up on all the latest details Anna Nicole Smith saga.

  • I agree with most of what you say and thanks for the link to the citizen lab at the University of Toronto. I’m not one though for advertisements and hate the scraping of news stories by marketeers on the web and the assaults by large companies like google, yahoo, msn etc on my computer with cookies without my permission. The censorship issue is a big one http://www.ncac.org/internet/20070214~USA~Google_News_Removes_Iraq_Site.cfm

    I’m quite interested in the concept of a cooperative of journalists and have just set up a blog about this http://www.citizenblog.org/node/2 The idea of networking professional and amateur journalists seems to have legs to me. Yea sure drop the distinction between a citizen and journalist.

  • Anon.

    I guess it’s not that big a deal if you agree with the Wall Streeter who thinks it’s just fine for three newspapers to cover Iraq, while the LA Times concentrates on the things he thinks it should. I liked that the first three items on his list were “style, Hollywood, entertainment.” Local government was almost an afterthought.

    But that’s OK. Michael Totten will cover the whole damn middle east on his own! Screw the MSM!

  • Raj Bala

    That’s the strange thing: Frontline usually puts out exceptionally high quality work in my opinion.

  • Tansley

    While Frontline often puts out very high quality work, in general, in my opinion the ‘media wars’ angle is really a non-news item, as you say, Jeff. The real struggle has been between the administration and the media. Newspapers: trying to stay afloat. Broadcast media: somewhat akin to U.S. automakers insofar as their overall market savvy is concerned.

    My best guess: slow news week at PBS…

  • Jeff, may I ask when your interview with Frontline was taped? The b-roll of blog screenshots were dated in mid-February.

    The reason I ask is that http://www.ColoradoConfidential.com and http://www.MinnesotaMonitor.com — online daily news sites that integrate trained journalists with bloggers to provide original and investigative reporting on state politics — have been in operation since July and August 2006, respectively.

    Colorado Confidential, where I serve as managing editor, was recently informed by the Society of Professional Journalists/Colorado Pro Chapter that we will be honored with Excellence in Journalism awards for a host of stories and opinion pieces at their annual banquet next month. How’s that for validation of citizen journalism?

    So much for Frontline doing research on this subject.

  • TC Regan

    I was also greatly disappointed, especially in the focus on NY-DC-LA (or Times-Post-Times newspapers to the exclusion of everything else. In a way it summed up the worst of the navel-gazing that the elites of the MSM have been caught up in for so long now. I guess it was too much to expect more of Lowell Bergman….he is, after all, a product of the NY-DC-LA media world. I thought you were great and showed Lemann for what he is…another in the Bergman camp. If these guys read anything other than the Times-Post-Times, they would see what is really happening out there and where the future of journalism really is.

  • JamesBruni

    You are right, Jeff. It was lame. The producers seem to think that the Blogosphere and Citizen Journalism are somehow counterposed to the Mainstream Media. In fact, these two worlds are merging very quickly. This segment could have delved into the Gannett experiment in Ft. Myers with its “mojos” and other hybrids of citizen journalism – mainstream journalism. Or the recent AP-NowPublic.com experiment (perhaps too recent for this segment). Your comments, however, were on target, as usual. Kudos.

  • Yeah, Part 3 blew. It’s too bad cuz the first two parts were so much better. Love your answers in the actual interview [transcript] though. “It’s foam on the latte, right?” Ha!

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  • Hasan Jafri

    Thanks for calling it like it is, Jeff. I wonder why Frontline is so cavalier about using war as a trope to cover media competition. How about debate, or better still evolution?

    Running content through PBS’s overused war filter is just a way of implying violence is being done to American values and democracy, conveniently embodied in geriatric old media. Bloggers come off looking like cave men and media terrorists. Youth is derided. Anyone willing to get the news from more than three sources is a moron.

    Remind me not to give PBS a dollar when their bell ringers come begging. At least bloggers host ads and earn a living.

  • Greg0658

    As a producer of content, I thought it was a good informative show. Well rounded to a mass audience. What do you expect on a budget of _?

    The point I worry about most was presented. Solvency of the Press, a requirement for democracy.

    You bloggers I worry about you too. I don’t want to see your vehicle pulled from you either. Be it net neutrality or dilution.

    Real world actions need to be investigated by people who are afforded travel to the hot spots and are granted access.

    Overabundance of material creates glazed over eyes. Thats the problem of ads everywhere.

    We need a NEW Rock n Roll to come TO BE. A great vehicle of marriage and harmony to bring the masses together again in nearly one mind.

    Democratic Nation-based Capitalism is in trouble.

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  • I came away with a completely different conclusion. It was an AMAZING docmentary, one of the best I’ve seen in years. (Disclaimer, I’ve seen only parts 2 and 3.)

    I also thought you came across very well.

    I also thought they conveyed in a very honest, straight-shooting and nuanced manner many of the deficits of mainstream broadcast AND print media, and many of the opportunities of online media, the power of individual voices. My ears rang with the messages I’ve been hearing from Scripting.com and sites like buzzmachine for so many years.

    I’m amazed you were so offended to what I, at least, considered such an excellent and balanced piece of reporting.

    I have no ties to Lowell, haven’t even met him, by the way (though we both live in Berkeley), or to PBS.

  • PS The thing was the most enlightening piece or journalism I’ve seen on the future of news, EVER. I’m amazed you say they didn’t touch on it — that was the WHOLE third installment! I finished the show practically with tears in my eyes, inspired by all the new forms of media online.

  • john caddidy

    Gotta agree with Ryan. I thought the entire Frontline series of very well done. Part of the problem that I see here is the incredibly thin skin on the part of so many in the blogging world. Reading the comments left by Jeff and Dave Winer and the like — one wonders whether their ego is just too stung by the MSM’s refusal to bow down and crown them the end all, be all. Sorry guys, but you’re not. Yes, blogging adds to the conversation. And it played a role in Rathergate and a few other big stories. But that’ a fairly minor list. Fact is that you aren’t going to break big stories. Fact is that you’re not going to put your asses on the line in Iraq (yeah, I know — a few bloggers have done so. But they be in the MINORITY!). Fact is you rely on working journalists for your fodder. But pontificating on the rights and wrongs of the world, while sipping latte in your PJ’s has limited value.

    Get over yourselves and stop whining. It’s becoming awfully tiresome.

  • I thought it was interesting that Amanda Congdon and her Rocketbazooms was the main female voice. She’s also got a segment on their website. Her joining ABC News.com didn’t make ABC any hipper, and didn’t say much about citizen journalists. An actress or Katie Couric–same diff.

  • adslfan

    check out the end series on cbc. the end of tv , print and radio . llots of nterview. shows run 30 minutes.
    and its free.


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  • Guy Love

    As traditional media continues to shrink along with the generation that grew up with them, the younger generation seems quite eager to press on with the future of media often outlined on this site. It seems a shame that the traditional media can’t grasp the obvious, how much longer will it take before they realize time has passed them by and they must adapt to survive.

  • David

    I can sympathize with both sides here, but I do think it’s very clear that both the MSM and the blogging communities each suffer from the same narcissism and self-absorption. Both groups operate inside their own echo chamber and maintain similar delusions about their power.

    The fact of the matter is that the blogging community, while undoubtedly a powerful and growing force, still has a fairly limited audience. Most Americans still don’t know what blogs are (particularly those over age 40). while at the same time many bloggers tend to assume that they have reached parity with the MSM.

    Obviously the MSM needs to adapt and it’s not clear at this point whether this will be possible, regardless of how critical it is to ensure that at least some useful information makes its way to the electorate.

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  • nancy pochurek

    Where on the internet can I find the original interview between Dr. Jeffrey Weigand and Mike Wallace of 60 minutes?

    Thank you.


  • jessie

    Searching for the original 60 Minutes interview Mike Wallace did with Dr. Jeffrey Wigand on February 4, 1996. Does anyone know where this video can be found?