On the Dangers of News Metastasis
Scott Karp, CEO of the news aggregation/journalists’ social bookmarking service Publish2, has a post on his blog that has finally allowed me to identify the disease that is killing mainstream journalism.
Karp reproduces a horrifically detailed snapshot of the volume of news stories generated after the Microsoft/Yahoo talks fell apart. Karp reports a total of 2,000 stories and counting. Suffice to say that the list appearing on his blog is about 40 screens deep and many items link out to yet more stories.
One look at the images and I made the diagnosis: The news business, due to both genetic and environmental factors, is dying as malign matter reproduces in an out-of-control way, destroying healthy tissues nearby and threatening the survival of the patient itself.
This is, of course, the definition of metastatic cancer. Let me belabor that metaphor just a bit.
The malign matter is poor and mediocre news.
The genetic factors are the deeply imprinted DNA of the news business; the environmental factors are obvious.
The reproduction of the diseased matter is out of control because people who run news organizations believe they need to create “their” “branded” versions of news events for “their (!)” readers. (They also operate in packs and lack the courage to ignore what the competition is doing and try to find something more important to do.)
The disease process is destroying healthy tissues nearby and threatening the patient’s life. If the reduced number of writers and editors who truly can add value to a particular news event–and can be economically sustained by emerging business models–are all sent lurching after the same big stories, the institution of journalism becomes weaker and loses value. Who would fight to sustain such a low quality of life?
Karp lays out the case against undifferentiated news content fully, so read his entry for a master class on the matter.
His recommended treatment: What he calls “link journalism”–having writers and editors curate the best content on a topic regardless of source, and focus their energies on the few stories where they can make important contributions.
But that, unfortunately, is what might be called “alternative medicine”–a technique so far out of mainstream practice that it is ridiculed and dismissed by conventional practitioners. [If you doubt this, ask any mainstream journalist sititng nearby what he or she thinks of curating the best links for most stories and pursuing the few stories they can do their best work on.] No, the conventional practioners prefer the protocol they are currently pursuing: surgery, poison and radiation.
You know: Killing the patient in order to save him.