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News is a network

Jeff Jarvis has a terrific, provocative post about the narcissism of newspapers in which he discusses a number of myths. The discussion afterwards is also really inte)resting. Here’s the comment I posted there (with a minor edit or two, all of which can really be reduced to the title of this post:

Terrific post and discussion. Thanks, Jeff.

May I add one more, related, myth to your collection, Jeff? Here goes: That it’s possible to cover the day’s events.

This is just a different way of putting your formulation “One man’s [sic] noise is another man’s news.” But I think it’s worth calling out since the promise of sufficiency is a big part of traditional newspapers’ promise of value to us: “Read us once in the morning, and after going through our pages, you will know everything you need to know.” (Do radio stations still make the ridicule-worthy “Give us 8 minutes and we’ll give you the world?” claim.) Yeah, no newspaper would ever maintain that claim seriously if challenged — they know better than their readers (or at least they used to) what they’re leaving out — but it’s at the base of the idea that reading a paper is a civic duty. The paper doesn’t give us everything but it gives us enough that reading one every day makes us well-informed citizens.

The notion that newspapers give you your daily requirement of global news — which works out to wondering, along with Howard, if there is such a thing as “news” — seems to me to be as vulnerable as the old idea of objectivity. Like objectivity: (1) It’s presented as one of the basic reasons to read a newspaper; (2) it hides the fact that it’s based on cultural values; and (3) it doesn’t scale well in the age of the Net.

Ultimately, this myth is enabled – as so many of the myths of news and knowledge are — by paper. Take away the paper and the newspaper doesn’t become a paperless newspaper. It becomes a network. That’s what’s happening now, IMO. From object to network … and networks are far far harder to “monetize” (giving myself a yech here) than objects.

(By the way, this is what I was trying to ask in the question I horribly botched at PDF. Sigh.)

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