Are Reporters Doomed? Cont’d
My good friend John Kelly, who’s in Oxford studying Proto-Neo-Techno-Journalism [or whatever it’s called], posted on his Voxford blog an excellent and typically hilarious response to Brit media guy David Leigh’s provocation [published in print!] titled “Are Reporters Doomed?”
Essentially, Leigh says the focus on PNTJ ™ is too much about technology and not enough about journalistic values. As more non-journalists join the scrum, the values of what he calls “Slow Journalism” (by which he means high-quality traditional journalism of the sort that’s been delivered on paper for centuries) will be buried and lost.
Kelly says no, the new competition is good. Market competition will allow quality, experienced practitioners of journalism who embody the important journalistic values yet embrace new delivery platforms simultaneously to rise to the top of the ever-growing crap-heap online.
At the risk of bastard-slapping my good friend John Kelly, whose writing is excellent and typically hilarious, I fear both arguments may be motivated more by sentiment and self-interest than by what’s really good for readers/users/visitors/whatever they’re called.
Both guys seem to think that journalists–and by that they appear to mean the folks who are really good with words, did well in the Humanities in college, spend recreational time reading quality periodicals published on paper, and tend to think in that linear way so much exposure to nouns and adverbs can cause–should still be running the show and safeguarding the “values” family jewels.
But when I look at the PNTJ ™ landscape I see important creations that frankly none of these wordmasters could have conceived. To name three:
- The Issues Tracker at washingtonpost.com, by the wp.com politics team and DayLife
- The nytimes.com’s Debate Analyzer, created by the team of Shan Carter, Gabriel Dance, Matt Ericson, Tom Jackson, Jonathan Ellis, Sarah Wheaton
- usatoday.com’s Candidate Match Game, created by a team of nine folks (sorry, their names were on a flash module, so I couldn’t cut and paste)
These are powerful acts of journalism that involve users with the substance of the ’08 campaign. In my estimation, they are “better” journalism–if we define that as delivering facts to the public that engage and inform them on the vital events of our times–than these three papers’ A-list columnists are likely to produce on the ’08 presidential race.
And yet: I suspect that as long as members of the linear-words-Humanities-New Yorker squad are running journalistic operations, they’ll still overvalue (and fund) 57-inch scene pieces and 60-inch policy thumbsuckers above the tools for advanced understanding cited above. They will continue to do this even on the papers’ Web sites, where the usability of that kind of work is even worse than it is in print. They will continue to whine that there is not sufficient revenue to find journalism in the public interest.
As Proto-Neo-Techno-Journalism ™ matures, the people who conceive and deliver journalism of the sort I’ve cited should increasingly run the show. If we don’t permit that to happen–if we fight it in the name of “values” and “integrity” and “journalistic tradition”–it may be time for the self-interested sentimentalists to stand down.