“Journalism 1.0 Is the New Journalism 2.0”

“Editor: a person employed by a newspaper, whose business it is to separate the wheat from the chaff, and to see that the chaff is printed.” —Elbert Hubbard (1856-1915)

We were able to agree that it was an essential element of impartiality that when a matter was controversial the viewer or listener would be able to make a judgement based on a fair assessment of all the relevant arguments and information. Relevant information should not be excluded nor should the presentation clearly favour one view over another. We recognised that this requirement had to meet the familiar point that it was not necessary to be impartial between sense and nonsense.The Budd Commission on BBC Business Journalism.

In given conditions, all contradictory aspects possess the character of non-identity and hence are described as being in contradiction. But they also possess the character of identity and hence are interconnected. This is what Lenin means when he says that dialectics studies “how opposites can be . . . identical”. How then can they be identical? Because each is the condition for the other’s existence. This is the first meaning of identity. –Mao Tse-Tung

John Gapper blogs it for the FT:

Bill Keller of the New York Times tells a conference audience:

But most of the blog world does not even attempt to report. It recycles. It riffs on the news[comma] That’s not bad. It’s just not enough. Not nearly enough.

Creative punctuation by the FT, or did the FT just reproduce the copy-editing error by cutting and pasting?

Amazingly, Nick Denton thinks the same way!

Now consider the advertisement on Friday on Gawker for a new managing editor (several of its employees are leaving at once, saying they are tired and disillusioned):

The advertisement:

It’s no longer enough to take stories from the New York Times, and add a dash of snark. Gawker needs to break and develop more stories. And the new managing editor will need to hire and manage reporters, as well as bloggers . . . Think of Gawker less as a blog than as a full-blown news site. The right candidate will oversee Gawker’s evolution.

Note the implicit disjunction there: Bloggers are not reporters.

In other words, Gawker wants to start doing Journalism 1.0: Uncovering new information, reliable and critically filtered, that no one else has developed.

This, Mr. Gapper — interesting, Dickensian name for a business blogger — says, is a product of the inexorable march of progress toward the convergence of old and new media!

If they seem to be saying the same thing, that is not surprising. The boundary between old media and new is falling and the distinction between blogs and print publications is eroding. There will always be a large population of blogs that are observations by individuals for themselves and their friends. But there is a growing segment of professional online publications.

Come again? A reversal of course from Gawker’s traditional cant on how “the Internet changes the rules of journalism” is not surprising?

Then why is it noteworthy?

Why should we not see this as an admission that Journalism 2.0 is a failure, an admission of what it always was: marketing psuedoterminology for a process that adds little or no value for the reader?

Why should we not see it as a return to Journalism 1.0?

History does not always march inexorably toward the Singularity, you know.

Sometimes, plus ça change, plus ça la meme chose.

Half-sunk, a shatter’d visage lies, yada yada yada.

Therefore, in homage to that fantastically cheeky (and Maoist) cover line in Time Out a while back — “Brooklyn is the New Manhattan” — I propose a new marketing campaign:

“Journalism 1.0 Is the New Journalism 2.0”

Because the whole idea that publishing news online rather than on paper changed the rules of journalism forever was mind-bendingly stupid and disingenuously short-sighted in the first place.

See

Journalism is not essentially a genre of writing.

Journalism is essentially an information service.

The village chief sends a young kid up to the top of the hill to see if, I don’t know, the elephants are coming. The kid comes back and say the elephants are indeed coming. The kids is right: The elephants arrive. Basically, the kid is the village journalist.

Journalism consists essentially in (1) finding lots of (true, novel and useful) things out and then (2) communicating them to people who do not have time to find those things out for themselves, (3) in a usable format.

You can communicate those (true, novel and useful) things by smoke signals, by waggling American sign language at your audience on the boob tube, or by chalking them up on the walls of Port Authority restrooms. You could conceivably use rebuses, even. Or mental telepathy (though that one is still on the drawing boards, as far as I know.)

The medium is not the message.

The message is the message.

The medium is a way of getting the message to the person who is willing to pay you for it, boiled to make it meet the “all the news that is fit for human consumption” standard.

Rupert Murdoch will no longer make me pay to subscribe to the online W$J. But I would have gladly paid more. For one thing, it is easier to ignore the Opinion Journal that way, and the section in the Weekend Journal known as “The Buzz.”

buzz noun a confusion of activity and gossip

Main Entry: 2buzz
Function: noun
1 : a persistent vibratory sound
2 a : a confused murmur b : RUMOR, GOSSIP c : a flurry of activity d : FAD, CRAZE e : speculative or excited talk or attention relating especially to a new or forthcoming product or event <one of the few new shows that’s getting good buzzTV Guide>; also : an instance of such talk or attention <their first CD created a huge buzz>
3 : a signal conveyed by buzzer; specifically : a telephone call
4 : HIGH 4

If I wanted confused murmur, excited talk and rumors about fads or crazes, or to feel like I’m totally high, dude, I would read Reuters blogs for free.

You would have thought that the online “revolution,” by reducing the cost of production and distribution to practically nothing — printing is an amazingly expensive and absurdly laborious proposition, even in the Age of Adobe InDesign — would have resulted in the production of a lot more true, useful and novel information.

Instead, it resulted in the production of oceans of noise, marketed as True 2.0, Novel 2.0, Impartial 2.0, and Useful 2.0.

See, for example,

Marketed with the rhetoric of “toxic sludge is good for you.”

You would have thought that news organizations would have been able to invest those savings in the hiring and retention of a lot more news-gathering professionals, tasked to producing a lot more true, useful and novel information.

Perhaps even using technology to make them more efficient toward that end.

What you have is a generation of cheap piecework labor who think — or who are ordered to conducts themselves as though — googling things is (were) doing journalism.

(The supposed “information glut” is often introduced at this point in the debate. But here in Brazil, an enormous number of very interesting things happen outside of the Zona Sul of Rio de Janeiro that, I submit to you, would be incredibly useful to know more about.

There is no hardly anyone who gets paid to find them out and write them up.

Globo does not have a single correspondent in Manaus, for example, and yet it claims to know everything about one of the more weird and happening archipelagos of temporary autonomous zones on the planet.

See

The newsweeklies here are brimming with Journalism 2.0:

Those who try to practice Journalism 1.0 sometimes end badly, and have their corpses pissed on by their colleagues into the bargain :

But if the Jornal Nacional does not report these events, as Gen. Figueiredo famously said, did they really never happen?

If the onça pintada lurks in the thick jungle and no one knows it, does it not exist?

Only until it emerges from the jungles and eats your boi zebu.

At which point it is a little late for you to take precautions.)

Instead, what did you have?

You had the Times Select program, which assumed that readers would not pay for straight reporting, but would pay to read Maureen Dowd and David Brooks. On whom see also

That they would pay for the chaff — opinion — and not the wheat.

This turned out to be something of a losing proposition, it seems.

But are we really supposed to be surprised by that failure?

Please. I was not born yesterday.

(I actually had lunch with Nick Denton once. A buddy of mine had weird entrepreneurial schemes in mind back during the Bubble and wanted to me to come along to back and critique his pitch to the Nickster. I am fond of this buddy of mine, but he is kind of a Homer Simpson sometimes.

It was raining and I had a terrible case of the flu. We ate Thai, I think.

Nick is one elongated and somewhat peculiar geezer.

Nick is also one smart geezer. His momma didn’t raise no fool. This was my personal impression. For what it’s worth. I was practically hallucinating with fever at the time, mind you.)

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