If I had a penny for every article I had read about the pros and cons of blogging and its effect on mainstream journalism, I would be a very rich man – I would probably have enough to be a full-time blogger, rather than writing my posts in my own time.
With so many blogs, some of which are becoming professional concerns, it was inevitable that the war of words between bloggers and journalists was never going to end, especially now that so many lazy mainstream journalists have learnt to feed off the blogs.
So it was with some interest that I read an article on TechCrunch this morning entitled “The Morality and Effectiveness of Process Journalism“, which came about as a result of this piece of angst-riddled insecurity from The New York Times.
I’m not going to go into the details of this particular example of “handbags at dawn”, although from the exhibits presented by both the plaintiff and the defence I can say that Mr Darlin of the NYT probably wouldn’t last five minutes in any newsroom run by me.
From where I’m sitting, TechCrunch reported a rumour as exactly that and published it with more caveats than a dossier on WMD:
Today, though, rumors popped up that Apple may be looking to buy Twitter. “Apple is in late stage negotiations to buy Twitter and is hoping to announce it at WWDC in June,” said a normally reliable source this evening, adding that the purchase price would be $700 million in cash. The trouble is we’ve checked with other sources who claim to know nothing about any Apple negotiations. If these discussions are happening, Twitter is keeping them very quiet indeed. We would have passed on reporting this rumor at all, but other press is now picking it up.
If only many mainstream journalists were as assiduous about highlighting so-called facts which are, in reality, rumours.
Eniment journalist and blogger Jeff Jarvis has also written about this, which he describes as Product vs Process journalism: The myth of perfection vs beta culture; I totally agree with his sentiments – the idea that a story is, once written, an entity which cannot be changed is a product of the old way of producing news, where you had a single product, be it a TV programme or a newspaper edition, into which the “finished” story was placed.
OK, stories might move over a period of time, and one only has to watch All the Presidents’ Men to see how that worked, but even then, the story presented in each edition is a complete, rounded item, drafted, edited, honed until it is as good as it could be.
Only with the advent of 24-hour news and, later, new media have we been able to see news as a constantly evolving activity, from ‘Breaking News’ to the retrospective documentary, a story moves, grows, evolves like a living being, often with just as much complexity, and to characterise a story only in terms of locked off “editions” makes about as much sense in the interweb age as carbon paper.
It’s also interesting to note that this was written for the NYT‘s Business section, and we all know how much esteem they’re held in after the recent meltdown in the world’s economy.
So what is the moral of this incompetant piece of naval gazing by the NYT? As Jeff Jarvis so eloquently puts it:
The problem with this tiresome, never-ending alleged war of blogs vs. MSM … is that it blinds each tribe from learning from the other. Yes, there are standards worth saluting from classical journalism. But there are also new methods and opportunities to be learned online. No one owns journalists or its methods or standards.
The upshot of this is that these days it doesn’t really matter what hacks like Damon Darlin churn out, if they get it wrong, they can be called out within minutes and the facts of what was really said and what was missed can be blogged and published for all to see faster than you can say “libel writ”.
And you know what? Mainstream journalists could do the same, if only they’d get their heads of the sand and their mindsets out of the past.
“Gorgeous George”, as he was known, is one of the last remaining parliamentarians with any kind of character, a true orator and a fierce debater, a rarity in these dark days as the real people running the country have the reins of power snatched away by the men in grey suits, the automaton lobby fodder who have as much to do with the real world as a bag of Martian spanners.
Sadly though, as the mainstream media becomes ever more hype-obsessed, George has started to believe his own propaganda, and thinking that just because he could beat the questions of interrogators and senators, his next obvious step was to show them how it was done, and get his own show.
So he turned to Iran’s Press TV, an Al Jazeera wannabe set up by Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmedinejad and which therefore shares his tenuous grasp on reality, and the meeting of these two particular minds has produced unbelieveable results:
Normally at this point I would launch into a detailed, nay forensic, dissection of everything that is wrong with this interview – however in this case bandwidth limits prevent me from doing so – yes, it is that bad.
The line of questioning, the bias, the demenor and the method are so toe-curlingly, cringe-inducing that the only reason I stuck it out to the end was to see whether the interviewee would make it that far as well.
Fair play to him, he did, and in the face of George’s pathetic whinging and unsubtle attempts at provocation, did so with good grace and honour – a lesser man would have walked away earlier, or punched the interviewer in the face.
This is an object lesson in bad television and bad journalism, it breaks pretty well every rule from conduct to objectivity, and for my part I will be using it in future to demonatrate to trainees exactly how not to conduct an interview.
[Edit/PS: I wonder whether Ofcom will be investigating this now]