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Saturday, April 05, 2008

Don't let me down

Reader-submitted question: On the subject of Russell Smith....What? No comment on yesterday's column, Way more news sites, way less news? Seems to me to be kind of right up your alley.

I am too predictable. I saw that column and thought seriously about doing a post, but was too tired earlier in the week.

This column is actually much more than I usually expect from Russell, by which I mean that it is still not very good, but well within the standards of the Globe's new Arts section. I can understand why our Newspaper of Record would want to publish it: It is essentially a space-filler about the importance of the Newspaper of Record. What a coincidence!

It's fortunate that we have Russell and the Project for Excellence in Journalism to bring us breaking news like:

  1. There are a LOT of websites and blogs.
  2. Most of these do not do a lot of original research. Instead, they provide commentary on or links to real news sites.
  3. These websites focus on the things their readers want to read about.
  4. Although the Project is not cool enough to mention sites like Digg, Russell definitely is. Digg him, please! Remember, it's a "new phenomenon", so Russell is TOTALLY THERE. (Did Russell just notice that site, or does he really think it's new?)
Wow. I can only guess how much this report must have cost. This level of analysis is definitely unusual and deserves a LOT of media coverage. Who would have thought that websites focus on the things their readers want to read about?

Naturally, when the nasty little underbelly of the Internet is exposed in such a dramatic fashion, it is cause for much glee. I don't really like the term "mainstream media" because it's so contemptuous and neglects the important role of large news organizations, but if Russell wants to apply that term to himself, I suppose I can't argue with him.

You see, the mainstream media is MUCH more important than blogs. MUCH MUCH MUCH MUCH more important. All you need is some foot-stomping to really make that point. The true innovators are the people who work for newspapers. Why, you might ask? Because they have blogs and allow comments on their stories, just like bloggers do!

I'm scratching my head. I thought Russell was saying that blogs aren't important. Yet, somehow, he sees them as proof that newspapers are cool. It's a simple rule of thumb: Blogs written by reporters are good. Blogs written by non-reporters are bad. That's pretty easy to remember, isn't it?

I really wish that newspaper folks weren't so defensive about the effect blogging has had on their industry. There will always be a role for journalism. Nobody is pretending that the majority of bloggers do their own research. As the Project points out, most simply provide commentary or a local spin on things a journalist has already reported. I'm not sure how that makes them bad. It's the same role columnists, pundits and editorial writers have always filled. It is true that the quality of this analysis varies widely, but that's the case for newspapers, too.

The rapid increase in the number of blogs does not threaten journalism. It has had a significant effect on traditional media models, but not on journalism itself. One day, journalists will see that.

Thanks for your question.


Anonymous said...

what a bitter, sad lady you are...

Shaund said...

Ah, that's better. Thanks. :-)

So...if blogs written by non-reporters are bad and blogs by reporters are good, where does that leave blogs by ex-reporters?

Megan said...

Bitter and sad, apparently.

Gifted Typist said...

Didn't see the column in question but I have seen that defensive reaction amongst the media mainstreamers.
They are apples that allow themselves to be threatened by oranges, if you get my drift.

Of course there is some cross over between news media and news blogs, but they still offer differentiated products.

As for RS, I think we have a good candidate for male Reckler here. He's a little smarter, perhaps, but that is made up for by his sense of self-importance.