Pay no attention

Pete Hamill made an outrageous ruling on blogs and journalistic education on Brian Lehrer’s show on WNYC yesterday. Ready, aim, flame:

You know blogging, the blogosphere. When I teach at NYU I try to tell these young potential journalists: don’t waste your time with blogs because you need to be somewhere where there are editors, where you are getting paid. A blog might be useful therapy, but it’s not, at this stage of its development, journalism. I think that is a big mistake to be doing that kind of stuff.

I think I’ll just let that sit there.

Lehrer and Hamill were talking about local reporters:

LEHRER: When I think about newspaper columnists, it seems to me there’s a lost generation. That the entire art has changed. There were people like you and Jimmy Breslin, Murray Kempton and others. Who were going out to neighborhood bars, writing about individuals. Or writing about policy through the story of individuals. Now there are lots of policy columnists today and some very good ones, even in the present day New York tabloids. But I don’t think there’s the same emphasis on the individual story. And very much the individual immigrant story. Do you think?

HAMILL: I agree with you. I think one reason for it is the overdependence on the internet: to sit in a building and call up all the statements from politician x y or z or think tank a b or c is not the same as going to 116th street and seeing the change over from Puerto Rican culture to Mexican culture.

So the internet and blogs are bad for journalism. Or is that just bad for columnists? Or Hamill? Or journalism students?

Here’s the audio:

I spoke later with Lehrer producer Jim Colgan. We didn’t bother with that blog bigotry. But I said that there is now more reporting going on at least in some neighborhoods and towns thanks to local bloggers. Lehrer is having one of them, Bob Guskind, who blogs at Gowanus Lounge and is the Brooklyn editor of Curbed, on the show today at 11a to talk about this. But I also pointed out that blogs also give us the voice of the people directly; they need not go through the filters of columnists and editors to be heard. If you want to listen. Which is what I thought journalists were supposed to do.

Journalism students: I wouldn’t waste your time with this advice about blogs.

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  • Re: The advice to J-school students to not waste their time with blogs.

    Funny, as a journalism teacher myself, my final lecture this semester in all my classes was that they needed to START blogging. The journalism industry is still figuring out how to adapt to the changes at foot and students coming out of J-school with a good understanding of how blogs work and why they are powerful have a HUGE leg up on those that come out without it.

  • Actually, journalism students (and journalists), I would suggest taking Hamill’s advice in reverse. After all, would you take advice on how to survive as a species from a dinosaur? You really must start a blog to learn what you need to unlearn about Journalism, for example: 1) most readers have never really wanted “objectivity” in news; 2) you are not as unbiased as you think you are nor is anyone else; 3) your claims to provide more highly verified information, even if true, will not necessarily give you an edge in gaining your readers’ trust; and 4) like it or not, you must respect the tastes of your audience because, in the end, it is they who will decide what “news” is. (Steve Boriss, The Future of News)

  • BW

    There’s so much irony here I’m tangled all up in it –

    a) Overdependence on the internet keeps reporter from “going to 116th street and seeing the change over from Puerto Rican culture to Mexican culture.”
    b) Journalists should not waste time blogging.
    c) Journalists can now LIVE on 116th street, and blog about it on the internet.

    Mix all that up together, give it a shake, voila.

  • Columnist disses people who write like columnists.

    Institutional voice more important than individuality, says legendary voice of New York.

    That’s basically what he said.

  • Jim

    By the way, the audio for today’s follow-up discussion is up at WNYC now.

    (Brian Lehrer Show producer)

  • I will say one thing – I think too many people/bloggers/reporters forget that you can get some great stories by going outside or going to a bar or picking up a phone from time to time. It’s too easy to rely on strictly digital reporting.

  • Bloggers alone have given the well-known, ancient, politico-journalist tavern, Manuel’s, here in Atlanta a whole new life with a another generation of paying clientelle. Especially since they added wi-fi. It’s an old/new media mashup almost any day of the week, particularly Tuesdays.

    I suggest that clueless windbags who don’t blog get out of their gated communities a little more before shooting off their clueless windbag mouths so much, because whatever you do, hanging out in bars always furthers the story. And funny, last time I checked, it also gets my videos written about in old media COLUMNS the next day too.

  • Actually, for those of us now not living in easy range of 116th street, its a viewpoint we can add by blogging with you who do. The blogging is a good addition to our insights because altho it throws in the inauthentic along with valid deep thinkers, you can see that also in the streets.

    Love Jeff’s advice, and anyone who is advising any student to cut out some aspect of experience is really not allowing himself to look at what he’s saying.

  • David Rogers

    When Mr. Hamill said, ‘..sit in a building and “call up” all the statements’, I reflexively switched on the BS filter, pretty much dismissing anything he had to say about the Internet and blogging as too out of touch to be seriously taken into account. No doubt I am at fault for delivering such snap judgements (not doing any better than Pete), but I immediately assumed he was one of those folks who will brag and bluster about how well they have made it in life without ever having touched a computer. Notwithstanding the fact that Mr. Hamill is a legendary writer and reporter, that series of tubes we know as the Internet is one scoop that he should have dug a little deeper on before going to press.

  • Sigh.

  • chico haas

    “1) most readers have never really wanted “objectivity” in news;”

    Whether or not such a thing is delivered – when did THAT become what most people want? Certainly it’s an argument for citizen journalmaking, but it’s completely at odds with the essence of journalism.