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Wednesday, December 17, 2008


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Ken Hawkins

Interesting thoughts. I had been thinking that newspapers did largely two things: 1) junk stuff anyone could do: rehash press releases, write down event times, etc., and 2) the trained journalist stuff: cover crime trends, investigate corruption, etc.

But this post encourages me connect the dots differently regarding point two. A lot of the fact finding and tip offs regarding point two do come from community members in the know and organized groups.

So, maybe it's not that journalism is dying but it's two core tasks are being spun off. Task one to the community (largely via topic-focused bloggers) and task two to organized groups that are willing to investigate to further a cause.

All of that just furthers my belief that the newspaper's role and product won't die, but be shattered into a thousand pieces. And it furthers my belief in what we're doing at TheDigitel. It's not about owning the media in the community anymore, it's about building the reed that can bend to connect folks to the hundreds of different mouthpieces and provide context.


I also found this insightful. The NYT (who still does reporting) had an article a few days ago about the drastic reduction of the Washington Press corps. I knew about this, but it really bothered me, because someone DOES need to watch government. I mean, Cox (who owns the Atlanta paper, and other biggies) doesn't even have a Washington bureau anymore.

On the other hand, when did anyone but a member of the major national media (WaPo, NYT, Newsweek, etc) break a major "watchdog" story? It seems like most Washington reporters, at best, localized the impact of Washington events. And they didn't need to be there to do that.

And Dan has added dimension to that insight. Still, what I wonder, is what is lost by giving up the principle of the "unbiased" watchdog, no matter how many postmodern ways we must nuance "unbiased." Most of the groups doing the investigating have an explicit agenda. Maybe that's a pure improvement, if only in terms of honesty.

At the same time, though, it may nakedly reduce information about Washington to information wars between people with a stake (financial, moral, rights-wise, whatever) in public opinion. IN that sense, "news" becomes just another arm of lobbying.

The critique, of course, is that this has ALWAYS been the case; we just haven't acknowledged it. But a lot of people making that argument are media-critics who have never worked under journalism's old "non-biased" ethos. When I was a journalist, I took that ethos seriously. I failed to embody it at times, but I tried. And I think the attempt affected the outcome in a positive way.

By reducing newsgathering to interest groups (even non-profit one), we effectively say that this attempt to be fair is worthless. I think that's a loss. Unless we change how journalism works as an institution/business, though, it may be an inevitable one.

John Fleck

As both a producer and consumer of journalism, I don't think your generalization here is at all accurate. Some of what you describe really happens, lots of journalists and publications do their own "investigating", and the majority of journalism is of an entirely different "watchdog" sort - the nuts and bolts tracking of straightforward civic processes.

But there's a second problem with your analysis. To the extent that mainstream journalism is dealing with the sort of topics you describe - data collected and analyzed by non-profit and volunteer groups, the ones that I deal with *don't* use the direct-to-new media path for a good reason. It's certainly available to them, but they go to mainstream media because it allows them to reach an audience that would not otherwise self-select the topic at hand. That whole "thrown on a zillion driveways" thing is of critical importance to their ability to get their message injected into the civic dialogue. And to the extent that new media participants want to influence civic discourse, their most commonly used strategy remains the well-used tactic of shaming the mainstream media into covering something - to move the topic beyond the blog dialogue among self-selected audiences and into that "general public" space created by stuff thrown on a zillion driveways or pumped onto a zillion TV sets.

robert ivan

Drudge first received national attention in 1996 when he broke the news that Jack Kemp would be Republican Bob Dole's running mate in the 1996 presidential election. In 1998, Drudge gained notoriety when he was the first outlet to break the news that later became the Monica Lewinsky scandal. -from wikipedia

Matt Drudge was managing a CBS gift shop at the time i think which makes this a case of watchdogging in my opinion.

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