Thursday, May 7, 2009

It's Getting Ugly Out There

The war between bloggers and defenders of mainstream media is getting pretty nasty, some of it triggered by the Future of Journalism hearing in Washington. It was an odd collection of witnesses, to say the least (not that any particular witness was odd.)

It really does seem as if we've reached a tipping point: there's no going back to the traditional newspaper and we've not found a good alternative. I read lots of blogs everyday and love many of them. They are often deeply focused on political news, great for junkies but often lacking perspective or context. They'll take up an issue and report it out with a great deal of insight. But the original news usually comes from a newspaper. And as far as depending on a blog for local news, forget it. I wouldn't have a clue what was happening in my town if I had to depend on blogs.

Some of the coverage coming off the hearing:

Laura Bush's ex-press secretary heaps scorn and mocking photos on John Kerry

Friends of Arianna Huffington rush to defend Huffington's business model

David Simon gets skewered by several writers, some pissier than others.

Some writers point out that any news site can be successful if its contributors work work for free.
On the one hand she rails against corporate greed. On the other hand, Arianna Huffington, one of the web's most prominent political bloggers, refuses to pay the legion of citizen bloggers that have made her site (The Huffington Post) the 5th most linked to blog on the web according to Technorati. Or, so argues Froma Harrop in a biting editorial in the Providence Journal.

Adam Serwer tries the sensible, context approach to writing about the "Future of Newspapers" hearing.

And some of those who like the Huffington Post aren't fond of the tabloid approach it's taken lately (not to mention the postings by anti-vaccine crusaders)

UPDATE, Peter Y. Sussman, writing at Huffington Post, makes a thoughtful point about the celebrity effect on journalism, one that I find grows directly out of Huffington's very essence.

Huffington Post is a noble and necessary experiment in citizen journalism -- and indeed in journalism itself -- and I have been pleased to be a contributor, however infrequent. But like all path-breaking experiments, it can be led astray by its very success, and I wonder if it is now in danger of being blinded by the dazzle of one of its own innovations...
Citizen journalism certainly has a valuable role to play in leavening news coverage with local perspectives and with the insights of experts outside the "usual suspects" featured on Sunday morning news shows. But massive, unfiltered exercises in citizen journalism can tilt public understanding as surely as the rush of passengers from one side to the other can threaten the stability of a small boat.

I used the word unfiltered intentionally. Despite the scorn heaped on the role of the MSM as filters of the information that reaches the public, we may be losing something important by so completely ditching the old model. The solution for information that has been inappropriately filtered may not be opening the spigot full-force.

Another word for journalism filters is editors.

As usual, Jay Rosen has one of the more intelligent comments on the end of journalism/future of journalism issue: "If I had one wish in this whole business model discussion, it would be that everybody would drop the idea that there is a single solution."

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