Sunday, April 30, 2006

Press rollback and destructive technology 
It occurs to me that what the pressies think of as "rollback" is really simply the natural consequence of "Google" becoming a household name.

It used to be that primary sources were not reasonably available on the Web. Even if you were inclined to do some digging, you had to go to the library. And even then, only a few urban libraries and university libraries had full collections.

So when some reporter reported X, and X was false, the news consumer had no recourse, no way of efficiently fact-checking the reporter.

Reporters, on the other hand, often had access to clipping services (old school) and more recently, the Nexis/Lexis or Factiva databases, or their own in-house research departments to track things down. As a result, newsies got used to being thought of as authorities. As credible.

Unfortunately, there's little evidence to suggest that such a reputation was EVER warranted. With the advent of Google, the playing field was suddenly leveled.

Lexis/Nexis catches some things that Google doesn't (Dave McLemore came over to my blog recently with some stories on a wounded female veteran that I had missed without Lexis/Nexis, and quite rightly busted me for it). But Google is more than sufficient for the consumer to reasonably evaluate lots of claims made by the ink-stained wretches in the high-gloss media.

And what do we find?

Well, we uncovered a bunch of serial plagiarists (from the left and the right), and loads of just plain awful reporting.

It is my opinion as an expert on operations at the small unit level and as one with first hand knowledge of much of the inner game of operations in a small little corner of Iraq called Ramadi in 2003 - 2004, that reporting on the Iraq war is particularly bad. But journalists haven't exactly distinguished themselves on the financial journalism front, either (witness Howie Kurtz's book, "The Fortunetellers").

But it is only now, when the masses have access to Google, and the masses have an efficient way to conduct computer-based hobby reporting AND have an efficient way to distribute their findings to a small group of influential people (blog readers), that it becomes clear that the media emperors had no clothes.

And now that everyone is pointing and laughing - and deserting news outlets, sending stock prices plummeting even during the broad equity bull market of recent months (which means that NY Times stock price declines cannot be explained by phenomena external to the NY Times and media sector specifically), mediacs are feeling the heat.

Except they're too thick-skulled, thin-skinned, and full of themselves to accept responsibility for strengthening their product, and instead blame everyone else for "rollback."


The President does not have the power to lessen the importance and relevance of the news media.

Only two entities have the power to do so: The news media themselves, and their customer, the citizenry.

(Crossposted at PressThink)

(See also this post from Tapscott)

The arrogance of the press is just unbelievable! They think they have a RIGHT to be spoon-fed information! A "a special interest group begging for goodies it doesn’t deserve" is EXACTLY what they are.
So there's a lot of inept journalism out there, and lucky us, more of it is being corrected these days. But there's a lot of inept EVERYTHING if you look closely enough. If you look at production of anything - paper towels, say - there's going to be collossal blunders, unethical losers, and systemic folly. The difference is that we have high standards for media, as we should. But don't blame on simplistic us-versus-them thinking or media arrogance.

The rollback of media freedoms and access to information is real and serious. If the NY Times can't get a FOIA request answered, the bloggers aren't either. While newspapers+blogs is a pretty good system, perhaps the bloggers could acknowledge that much of the time they're pushing around wire stories that didn't get enough play.
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