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[pdf09] Has the Net helped journalism?

NOTE: Live-blogging. Getting things wrong. Missing points. Omitting key information. Introducing artificial choppiness. Over-emphasizing small matters. Paraphrasing badly. Not running a spellpchecker. Mangling other people’s ideas and words. You are warned, people.

Frank Rich: Yes. But someone is going to have figure out how to pay for it. I suspect it will be figured out. There are always these fears during dislocations.

Karen Tumulty: It’s a terrifying time for traditional newspapers, but there are models that work. E.g., I watch Marcy Wheeler’s thermometer.

Dan Gillmor: I’ll channel Clay Shirky. The cost of experimentation has gone to just about zero. There are thousands of experiments, including in business models. We need even more.

Scott Simon: We need to be open to social media. Journalists tend to get jaded. People are now their own editors. A tweeter in Iran said “Tell all your friends: You are the media.” I think that’s true, but there’s work to be done to recreate the best values of journalism all over again.

Rich: We’re so obsessed with new media. Let 1,000 tweets bloom in Iran, but we forget that people are still repressed. The happiness with Iranian’s use of social media has led us to distort the coverage.

Simon: With social media you can overhear people talking with one another, in a way that is very hard with traditional reporting.

Gillmor: The issue of verification can be pretty slippery. We’re having to relearn media literacy. We have to be skeptical of everything … including the NY Times. But we also have to learn how to be not equally skeptical of everything. I’m not worried about supply but we have pretty crappy demand…people who grew up as passive consumers. It’ll take work on our parts, as former consumers and now users, to figure out what to trust.

Tumulty: You may wobble on line but ultimately you get to what the truth is because so many people demand it.

Rich: The people in this room are obsessed with this stuff. We want to find out what’s really going on. But a lot of people, especially those who aren’t upper middle class, don’t have the time.

Andrew Rasiej: People weren’t waiting for the journalists to get news about Iran. The NYT is old by the time it’s printed, especially since now we can sometimes go to the source of the news. It’s not a business model.

Gillmor: Yes. We’re not going to have gatekeepers like before. We now tell one another story. But this is so new. We need to get reputation combined with this.

Rich: But there’s only so much we can absorb. We saw home radios consolidate. Some conglomerate will want to have a big brand, and they’ll set the brand. I think there will be a consolidation. There will always be a component that seeks out minority views…

Gillmor: I don’t see that. The only conglomerate that worries me the is duopoly of the cable and phone companies.

Rich: We’re saying the same thing.

Gillmor: That’s a different kind of consolidation that we’ve seen…

Rich: With the same effect, and from the same people.

Tumulty: We should worry about the Google consolidation. SEO distorts the way you frame things

Simon: Journalism has to make the case for why it’s its own ism. There are left and right invesetigative journalism sites. A real news org sometimes upsets its audience.

Rich: How do we get people to eat their spinach? A lot of people want only celebrity news. That’s always been true. Does this new structure make it easier to have the masturbatory news that they want?

Gillmor: For the first time it’s easy to go deep. Even if it’s celebrity culture, the act of going deeper is instructive to some percent of that group. If we can increase the small percentage of people who create news, that’ll make a big difference.

Rich: People who watch ESPN are not going to start following Iran. And the paradox of the last decade: The whole growth of the new media occurred during a time when the Prez sent us to war on a fiction. Even though some of the fiction came from the NYT, the Prez got away with it. Even though people had more news sources, they were susceptible to a propaganda campaign.

AR: But Gonzalez might still be the attorney general…

Rich: Small potatoes compared to swallowing the war propaganda.

Gillmor: Traditional media still have enormous sway, and it was moreso 5 yrs ago. This isn’t an overnight transition. You’re right that that was a catastrophe. The traditional media walked in lockstep with deceptive people in DC. It’s going to take some time. It’s also instructive that the Guardian web site became enormously more popular because English-speakers wanted the other sides.

Simon: One of the hopes for new media is that it’s easier to be interested in both sports and politics and crocheting.

Gillmor: Traditional media were about producing, creating, distributing stuff. That’s not what we do online. We create it. We make it available. People come and get it. That’s really different. Viewers of Fox don’t have a link to what the other side says. Right wing blogs have links to the people they’re criticizing. If we can encourage people to click that link, people can see there are multiple facets…

Tumulty: But the people who land on that blog are not open to persuaded. The Net reinforces people in their beliefs.

Rich: People didn’t want to believe that Sadam didn’t have WMDs. We shouldn’t assume we’re automatically in a Renaissance.

Simon: There’s a still lot to be said for people seeking out variety. I think they’re not going to be satisfied with narrowcasting.

[I stood on line to ask a question and thus missed some live bloggage. There was a long discussion about the value of covering live events, for which there still seems to be demand.]

Q: [me] What’s the future of the idea of coverage? Coverage implies a value-free decision that we know is value-full, and it doesn’t scale well. [I had to say this twice because I didn’t put it well]
Rich: We’ll keep providing it so long as people want it.
Me: I’m suggesting it’s going the way of objectivity: a value no longer valued.
Rich: Papers have never pretended to offer full coverage.

[The session ran over; I had to leave before it ended.] [Tags: ]

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