Journalism Blues

It’s a real dark night of the soul for journalists. Feel their pain. The open season on media professionals shows no sign of stopping. Three o’clock in the morning and what’s up with journalists?

Take these three takes:

First, their business values make little sense, according to Huntley Paton, publisher of the Dallas Business Journal. When daily newspapers obsess over celebs and junk TV, they may as well be shining a light on their competition. And their liberal bias does them little good: by mocking “community standards”, they may as well be waving goodbye to their small-town readers. The solution? Get back to providing local information and original reporting.
Dallas Business Journal

Second, their skills set is full of holes, according to Dale Dougherty, editor and publisher of MAKE. He tracks the journalism mash-up, the positive feedback loop of modern journalism: how PR missives form the headlines which go on to form the common sense for reporters. There’s no conspiracy here. It’s just that too many journalists are sloppy and lazy and suffer from a herd mentality. They need a story to be either up or down; they can never just say that “nobody knows.” They swallow numbers in the hope of spraying their works with a crud of credibility.
Boing Boing

Third, they tend to get blinded by disruptive technology, according to Terry Heaton, media consultant. Audiences are moving to an unbundled world – they want total control over their media items. Old-style media companies should stop thinking of themselves as “one-dimensional deliverers of bundled media.”
Digital Journalist

While Paton is way off on the liberal charge, he’s right about dumbing down. It’s a race to the gutter. Newspapers can’t win that race against TV or magazines. There’s a certain threshold below which they can’t descend without becoming something other than newspapers, without losing sight of their role in the functioning of a healthy democracy.

Dougherty gets the process, the social construction of the way the media sees things, exactly right. But pity the poor shop-floor hack. Journalists work within wider structures. Perhaps it’s a case of take the corporate shilling, assume a corporate sense of social (ir)responsibility. Still, pity the poor shop-floor hack.

Similarly, Heaton, at least here, leaves out the wider context. His prescription may sort out the bottom line. Extract social relationships from already existing eyeballs and add value to them in the form of new media services to which advertisers are likely to flock. Paton’s point then becomes even more important for new media. Sure, if your values are out of kilter with your readers, you’ve got a potential advertising revenue hemorrhage ahead. But if your business model rests absolutely on a community of common interests, get out of kilter with that community and watch your business immediately crash and burn.

Looming over all these takes? The colossus holding his notebook and pen in the fist of his power salute. Here come the bloggers, left and right, on cue, tapping out their tales about the inadequacies of the mainstream media (MSM), over the barricades, the barriers to entry, scrambling up the giant. And look at that giant fall. Crash.

All his past glories won’t stop Woodward from looking like one of the President’s men.