Who's at fault?

Last week I pointed to Richard Posner’s indictment of mainstream media.

In rebuttal to that piece, Jack Shafer says he doesn’t trust the audience:

The larger point that the boneheads who so despise the media need to
appreciate is that the mainstream American press is better than it’s
ever been. If you don’t believe me, visit your local library and roll
through a couple of miles of microfilm of the papers you’re currently
familiar with. By any comparison, today’s press is more accurate,
ethical, reliable, independent, transparent, and trustworthy than ever.
Skepticism is a healthy disposition in life. I wouldn’t be a press
critic if I regarded the press as hunky-dory. But mindless skepticism
is mainly an excuse for ignorance. Even the people who denounce the
New York Times as the bible of liberals ultimately get most of their useful news from it.

I agree that in many ways today’s media is far better than the yellow rags of old.

Just like cassette tapes were a big advance from LP’s. But once I saw I could get 10,000 tracks of my choice on my Ipod, I never looked back.

UPDATE: More ringing endorsements of the direction of the industry.

Plus, is the metro daily outdated?:

It used to be the metro daily was a regionwide source for national
and international news and lots of lifestyle and cultural coverage. It
was also the "prestige paper" in the market. Now the net delivers all
these types of news better and media prestige just ain’t what it used
to be, ya know?. Meanwhile, smaller, more nimble players deliver local
news better and definitely serve local advertisers more effectively…

As our cities have grown, metro newspapers evolved with them. That
brought a necessary giantism — giant presses, giant distribution
mechanisms, giant staffs. And because of the size of the enterprise,
metros require giant advertising revenues to stay afloat.

Simple biology: giant creatures always require more food from their
ecosystems. That also means there is a maximum size that giants can
reach before their ecosystems collapse.

Plus, giants tend to begin to miss the small; the small stories
certainly, and even the small advertisers. When you are a giant, the
national revenues from a General Motors or a Proctor& Gamble make
more sense than the local revenues of the dry cleaner.

Yet people live, even in a metro area, on an intimate scale. Their
lives are are made up of neighborhoods, and local shops and the fate of
schools and all the delicate subtleties arranged around us….

We should keep our eyes open as multiple, small upstarts —
ala the Examiner — arrive to do the local job the metro daily refuses
to complete. Add citizen journalism to that mix and you get a spectrum
of media that is downright hopeful.

Sound like anyone we know?


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.