Archive for the 'journalism' Category

Shoddy Journalism

In his PressThink blog, Jay Rosen, Journalism Professor at NYU recently posted “Why the Internet Weakens the Authority of the Press.”  He begins by referencing the 1986 book The Uncensored War by press scholar Daniel C.Hallin.  In the book Hallin articulates an elegant model that explains why journalists didn’t do their jobs in the run up to the Iraq war.

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When (with some exceptions) political journalists failed properly to examine George W. Bush’s case for war in Iraq, they were making a category mistake. They treated Bush’s plan as part of the sphere of consensus. But even when Congress supports it, a case for war can never be removed from legitimate debate. That’s just a bad idea. Mentally placing the war’s opponents in the sphere of deviance was another category error. In politics, when people screw up like that, we can replace them: throw the bums out! we say. But the First Amendment says we cannot do that to people in the press. The bums stay. And later they are free to say: we didn’t screw up at all, as David Gregory, now host of Meet the Press, did say to his enduring shame.

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Death Knell for Print News

There is a lot of hand wringing about the decline and fall of print newspapers.  I canceled my subscription to the Minneapolis Star Tribune over a year ago because good writers and local content were harder and harder to find (not to mention the dearth of international news).  But instead of giving up on print entirely, I subscribed to the NYTimes whose $660 annual subscription is feeling a bit too luxurious in these times.  

Meanwhile, I spend way too much time reading news online.  I love to get local news from MinnPost (where most of the good writers from the Strib went anyhow), the NYTimes online edition (nicely formatted on my iPhone for reading on the train), Slate, the Economist, Time, and myriad other blogs whose RSS feeds crowd my Google home page (not to mention podcasts).  Is $660 really worth the tactile joy of opening the paper over a cup of coffee, when I’m overwhelmed with up to the minute news at my desk?

It’s no wonder people are writing the obituary of print news (to read it you’ll have to go to www.legacy.com).  Craigslist and Monster took away the want ads, advertisers are less and less interested in the demographic that still subscribes to papers, and worst of all good writing is hard to find.

As Jack Shafer points out in Slate, they did see it coming but tried to create walled gardens of content which required subscriptions.  Alas, this too has failed.  The last bastion of hope is the sports section. Mark Cuban writes in his blog that pro sports teams should come to the rescue of local papers.  Even though the Internet has infinite shelf space, the quality of local sports coverage is poor.  Maybe the Star Tribune and St. Paul Pioneer Press should ask the Vikings, Twins, Wild, Timberwolves, and Gophers for a little help. 

Potential Fight Club selection: Pablo J. Boczkowski’s 2004 book, Digitizing the News: Innovation in Online Newspapers.  Also, check out this interview with Eric Schmidt, CEO of Google “Eric Schmidt wishes Google could save newspapers“.

Jan 13 update: Interesting chart from eMarketer on where people get their news:

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Just so tired of all the talking heads…

I am just so tired of the talking heads, where have all of the reporters gone?  Every time you turn on the cable news channels or the network news shows, there is another talking head shouting out their opinion of the day’s events on a 30 minute repeat cycle.  Where is the research?  Where is the insight?  Where is the investigation that will lead us to this conclusion?  Instead we listen to hour after hour of the same story spun over and over without one iota of research, insight, or investigation.  What has brought us to this?  Who is to blame?

Is it the news stations that have cut budgets and forced hourly deadlines on their reporters, making newsworthy journalism impossible (Outfoxed: Rupert Murdoch’s War on Journalism provides some great insight into this topic)?  Is it the reporters who have found it easier to not question authority or prefer the ease of gathering opinions over facts?  Or is it us, the audience?  We want to feel like we are informed but we prefer to get our information in 30 minutes or less so that we can get back to the important task of following who will win the next American Idol?

If the political pundits weren’t bad enough… the only thing worse is the financial pundits!  Case in point the last couple of weeks was Jim Cramer of Mad Money on CNBC.  After an email question from one “Peter” – Mr. Kramer mistakenly told his audience that “No, No, No, Bear Sterns is fine… don’t move your money from Bear that’s just being silly.”  Having spent a few years in the industry, I have seen this a few times but one of the best examples was the hedge fund LTCM (Long Term Capital Management) that in 1998 lost $4.6b in less than four months (a great book for the record is When Genius Failed by Roger Lowenstein).  Mr. Cramer, you are just another talking head and you seemed to have robbed from Peter to pay Paul!  Your audience looks to you for investment advice and you weren’t willing to research the issue and make the tough call.  Instead you worried about a run on the bank and left your audience high dry with their worthless Bear Sterns stock.  Now that your audience knows where you stand, I would imagine your advertisers might be researching their investment and we will soon find you sitting high and dry.

 

Fluff and spin might work for my dryer but not for my news.  Where do you get your news?


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