Wednesday, December 28, 2005

The Death of Journalism

"Users are seeing the work of traditional news media as system damage and routing around it." Back in high school I thought being a journalist would be really neat. After a couple of semesters in University "Communications" courses I began to think corporate communications was a dirty business I wanted not too much to do with. After a year or so in the field I knew I had been right. Today, I think I'd rather pick up road kill than be road kill. Examples:
  • Relapsed Catholic on Kwanzaa
  • The Curt Jester exposes sensationalism in Quebec
  • My wife points me to a bit of drivel on blogs at the National Post today. I just cancelled my subscription over the holidays because the thing was so darn warmed over, tepid and blah. More of the same here folks, nothing to see.
Vanderleun at the American Digest gets it, but over simplifies. What new tech has done is drive the price of producing copy way down, which is why there is so much of it, and why so much of it is really bad. The price barrier has been lowered, and old school editors still hold their audience in contempt, seeking to reach a mass audience by dumbing down their wares under the mantra of "give the people what they want." Nobody who has to carefully manage their time will put up with this any longer. The cream of the audience has been given new options by the same tech that makes producing text so cheap. This audience - one much sought by advertisers - has the smarts and the tools to go on line as Vanderleun mentions. What Vanderleun misses is that not everyone relishes the control freaky tab jock thing. What the old media needs is a new crop of editors. Editors that get the technology their readers use, and keep on getting it. Getting it is not at all the same thing as merely using it. Getting it means knowing that while the mass audience will always be there, it is shrinking relative to what it has historically been. The niche is the part of the market that is growing. It is also demanding and critical and can sniff out a poseur at ten paces. To serve a niche you have to walk the walk. Want to write about blogging? 30 minutes surfing and 30 minutes writing equals trash that no one who is in that niche needs to read. Being an editor is tough. You need to pick hot stories, see to it they get done well, and then fact check the ever loving %$#@ out of them. Be fearless. Your audience wants to be informed, to stay on top of it. Squashing the Kwanzaa column or wasting column space on a non story like the Globe did is gutless and boring, pandering to the audience rather than challenging it to learn something. It's the kind of thing journalists learn to do through undergrad work in corporate communications. That's hardly an environment renowned for challenging anything. Yer welcome.

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