Must-read o' the week

in Uncategorized

Our friend Colby sent along Richard Posner’s scathing indictment of the state of news today.

There’s some validation of hyperlocal (emphasis mine):

So why do people consume news and opinion?  In part it is to learn of facts that
bear directly and immediately on their lives – hence the greater attention paid
to local than to national and international news

There’s also some good explanation of the harm of the objectivity myth:

Journalists minimize offense, preserve an aura of objectivity and cater
to the popular taste for conflict and contests by – in the name of
”balance” – reporting both sides of an issue, even when there aren’t
two sides. So ”intelligent design,” formerly called by the oxymoron
”creation science,” though it is religious dogma thinly disguised,
gets almost equal billing with the theory of evolution. If journalists
admitted that the economic imperatives of their industry overrode their
political beliefs, they would weaken the right’s critique of liberal
media bias.

And most importantly, I think, a discussion of the real problem the MSM has with Blogs, citizens’ media, et al. This is my new answer to old media folk who are intrigued by what we’re doing, but scared of what those crazy readers might post:

The latest, and perhaps gravest, challenge to the journalistic
establishment is the blog. Journalists accuse bloggers of having
lowered standards. But their real concern is less high-minded – it is
the threat that bloggers, who are mostly amateurs, pose to professional
journalists and their principal employers, the conventional news media.
A serious newspaper, like
The Times, is a large, hierarchical
commercial enterprise that interposes layers of review, revision and
correction between the reporter and the published report and that to
finance its large staff depends on advertising revenues and hence on
the good will of advertisers and (because advertising revenues depend
to a great extent on circulation) readers. These dependences constrain
a newspaper in a variety of ways. But in addition, with its reputation
heavily invested in accuracy, so that every serious error is a
potential scandal, a newspaper not only has to delay publication of
many stories to permit adequate checking but also has to institute
rules for avoiding error – like requiring more than a single source for
a story or limiting its reporters’ reliance on anonymous sources – that
cost it many scoops.

Blogs don’t have these worries. Their only cost is the time of the
blogger, and that cost may actually be negative if the blogger can use
the publicity that he obtains from blogging to generate lecture fees
and book royalties. Having no staff, the blogger is not expected to be
accurate. Having no advertisers (though this is changing), he has no
reason to pull his punches. And not needing a large circulation to
cover costs, he can target a segment of the reading public much
narrower than a newspaper or a television news channel could aim for…

…What really sticks in the craw of conventional journalists is that
although individual blogs have no warrant of accuracy, the blogosphere
as a whole has a better error-correction machinery than the
conventional media do. The rapidity with which vast masses of
information are pooled and sifted leaves the conventional media in the
dust. Not only are there millions of blogs, and thousands of bloggers
who specialize, but, what is more, readers post comments that augment
the blogs, and the information in those comments, as in the blogs
themselves, zips around blogland at the speed of electronic

This means that corrections in blogs are also disseminated virtually
instantaneously, whereas when a member of the mainstream media catches
a mistake, it may take weeks to communicate a retraction to the public.
This is true not only of newspaper retractions – usually printed
inconspicuously and in any event rarely read, because readers have
forgotten the article being corrected – but also of network television

Yeah. What he said.

UPDATE: A cautionary tale that I’ll toss out the next time an old media guy wags his finger at me about the accuracy of citizen journalists. It’s a goodun’, and less inflammatory than Rathergate, Jayson Blair, the circulation scandals, etc…

Mike Orren is the Chief Product Officer of The Dallas Morning News; President of Belo Business Intelligence; husband to Crystal Orren; and a Mungarian at Munger Place Church in Dallas, TX. All opinions herein are mine alone.