It is no secret that many new media publications are leveraging the knowledge of their readers to challenge the stories published by main stream media. Yet, many of the narratives published online are based upon news stories written by main stream media.
Eric Alterman for The New Yorker provides an in depth look at history of the print news business and its increasingly fast demise - right Out of Print.
Traditional media based its existence on in depth research and objective reporting. It said it avoided two of the pillars of modern online writing and publishing - opinion and point of view.
These and collaboration with readers are exactly the ingredients that have given us the outing of Dan Rather by conservatives at Little Green Footballs and the resignation of Attorney General Roberto Gonzales by liberal freelance journalist Joshua Micah Marshall at Talking Points Memo.
According to Marshall, “the collaborative aspect” of his site “came about entirely by accident.” His original intention was merely to offer his readers “transparency,” so that his “strong viewpoint” would be distinguishable from the facts that he presented. Over time, however, he found that the enormous response that his work engendered offered access to “a huge amount of valuable information”––information that was not always available to mainstream reporters, who tended to deal largely with what Marshall terms “professional sources.” During the Katrina crisis, for example, Marshall discovered that some of his readers worked in the federal government’s climate-and-weather-tracking infrastructure. They provided him and the site with reliable reporting available nowhere else.
In reflecting upon the destiny of many traditional news organizations just a short week ago at an event held by the World Affairs Council of Philadelphia, we wondered what will happen to the news. Not the news business, the news, period.
Many reporters and journalists have spent years understanding about the subjects of their stories. We could all find bloggers who have done the same, sometimes not even as part of their day job. Yes, they may not have studied journalism, but the news reporting format have changed to fit the modern harried reader so closely, that the in depth reporting of old may not matter as much anymore.
In a speech to the American Society of Newspaper Editors given three years ago, Robert Murdoch shared that traditional news organizations are more trusted by the people who don't read their products. Moreover, according to a recent study he cites,
the percentage of national journalists who have a great deal of confidence in the ability of the American public to make good decisions has declined by more than 20 points since 1999.
This is a polite way of saying that reporters and editors think their readers are stupid. In any business, such an attitude toward one’s customers would not be healthy. But in the newspaper business, where we rely on people to come back to us each day, it will be disastrous if not addressed.
Is it more likely that we have a fracture between what readers want to read and the news that is available? Murdoch asked a very good question during his speech
Too often, the question we ask is “Do we have the story? rather than “Does anyone want the story?”
[image Torre Marenostrum, Barcelona by SantiMB]