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March 31, 2005



This doesn't surprise me. I know a lot of young people and I've been internet savvy for a long time. As soon as I could get away from TV news and regular newspapers I dumped them immediately. It's an automatic response to better information.

I like being able to get international news when I want to. I like getting news that has no ties to the American Media Monster and I like to get small stories from ordinary people on their ordinary blogs.

And look at what I get to do here! I get to talk back and be a blowhard in real time! You just can't beat that.

I gave up network and local news because no matter what the story is, it's always hyped to death. Even when something really serious happens there's rarely any real news that can't be gotten on the web.


When I was younger I didn't follow the news either. At the time I thought it was a personal failing, but not any more - I think that, especially when you don't have a lot of life experience, a diet of unframed facts, he-said-she-said-isms, horse-race campaign reporting and hyperbole has next to no nutritional value: it doesn't give your mind the materials and support needed in order to build knowledge.

To the degree that newspapers view readers (vs. advertisers) as their customers, the "deliverables" seem to be perceived as amount of text read, rather than as amount and value of knowledge imparted. And as long as they keep looking at it that way, they'll keep slipping further and further into the realm of entertainment, which is something that other media can do better and that cheapens their value to the reader. (I think Doug McGill made this point a while back)

But until there's a way to credibly compare your paper's information quality with the competition's (and to communicate the result to potential customers), the customers won't have the info they need to select the best news source, so the newspaper's focus is going to stay on what can most easily be measured, namely eyeballs, as their readership numbers slide ever further downhill.

dilbert dogbert

I think us old guys are, have been, abandoning the newspapers and TV news.
I gave up all subscriptions, WSJ, SJMN and only subscribe to The Economist. I am thinking that The Economist is next to go as the quality of analysis has markedly decayed over the past couple of years. I try not to watch TV but that means abandoning my wife's society in the evenings and that is hard to do.
There are world changing events in formation now and there is no effort by the media to prepare people for shocks to come. It is like watching a slow motion train wreck. It would be fun except that it is boringly slow and I am aboard the train with everyone else.


You're exacly right Anna. One of the greatest problems I have with the media is this damned horse race reporting. On NPR recently, I listened to a discussion of the pharmaceutical industry which gave equal weight to their PR flack and to a non-profit which monitors the industry. I mean c'mon. A PR flack is not going to enter into a real discussion or be concerned with presenting actual facts.

So the entire discussion revolved around disagreement about facts as the PR flack spun his web.

This rampant policy of allowing people to come in and do major fact distortion and then treat it as just another viewpoint has ruined any faith I have had in normal news outlets.


One thing is painfully clear from the charts: the news industry has a serious credibility problem. While local and cable TV are doing the best, only 21% of respondents consider them trustworthy. For something that is supposedly unbiased and objective, those are terrible statistics.

It may be fashionable to wring our hands and bemoan the disillusionment of youth culture, but that merely avoids taking responsibility for what has gone wrong:

1) News organisations save time and money by simply repackaging press releases from companies as news.

2) Many news organisations now save time and money by repackaging government PR releases as news.

3) News organisations report points of view (as Anna mentioned), rather than helping readers determine factual truth. Lying is allowed to proceed unchallenged, making it difficult for readers to determine what is true. Genuine objectivity has fled.

4) News organisations are more reluctant to offend large advertisers and other powerful organisations, biasing the news.

5) News organisations are biased, while pretending to objectivity. Two examples -on the right, Fox News ("Fair and Balanced"), on the left, Dan Rather's mistake in this last election -- make this clear.

6) News is focusing on its "strengths - immediacy and personality", rather than on core aspects of news - important, novel, true. In other words, on entertainment rather than genuine news. (Quote from Andrew Hayward, President of CBS News)

There is a golden opportunity for a new form of media to replace the old. The level of trust in old media is quite low, for very rational reasons. Blogging already has better credibility; as one friend put it, "if someone makes a mistake, the entire net corrects it within hours".


Tom wrote:
"if someone makes a mistake, the entire net corrects it within hours". That's what I like about getting news on the web.

Someone always knows who's lying and especially in comment sections, PR blather is dealt with harshly. (As it should be.) These guys don't get a chance to frame the debate.


Blogging is the best thing to happen to journalism since the First Amendment. I read the news and when I read that Trent Lott was taken down by bloggers, I had to see what it was about and discovered a whole new world. I read the blogs to see what they are reading. (Imagine, something a quaint as the printed words is having a resurgence.) I agree with what others have posted here, and I believe blogging will solve a lot of those problems. At last there’s a new kid on the block to keep an old bully in check, to make the loudmouth shut up when he doesn’t know what he is talking about, right wrongs and prevent injustices in journalism.

I also have read some of the best articles I’ve ever read after coming into the blogoshpere. I check the indices such as Daypop for what are the most linked news stories and blogs. I used to go to the library and look through publications but I would never find the articles and stories I’m finding on the internet.

I believe the hard news stuff will stay. Although it has been interesting reading the first hand accounts from bloggers in Iraq or at natural disasters, the MSM has the means to cover a story in a way lone bloggers never could.

Columns and Op-Ed pieces are altogether something else. The blog is the future for this form of journalism. Lately I tend to visit sites that allow comments more than those that don’t. Writing some opinion and waiting for the letters to come in is so 20th Century. There is a new world order in the making, they better wake up and read the writing on the screen.


Missing in this discussion is one important element. True, most 20- and 30-somethings know how to use the internet, and many even look for a variety of news sources for self-correcting perspectives. But much "news" on the internet is not blogger-impacted, but is simply online versions of the print media.

More important, the most active voters by and large are older, and a much smaller percentage of the 35-70 age group uses the internet at all. Industry surveys report "access" numbers on the rise, but in terms of practical effect on voting and public support for political parties, these potential numbers are misleading, and actual "user" data includes many who just email or eBay and no more.

The interaction of these factors means that a large number of the people who elect presidents and congresspersons are still dependent upon the predigested dross of broadcast happytalk, or on controlled perspectives of a limited number of newpaper chains. The internet makes it easier to get multiple perspectives; unfortunately, it also makes it easier to tailor your access to only get multiples of the same narrow perspective as well.

I don't think the value to democracy of independent journalism can be overstated. Unfortunately, politics, the market and a vacuum of ethics and common sense are making a mockery of that profession. There are still a few mass media journalists more interested in complex and important topics, but the shallowness of reporting about nipple slips and Paris Hilton's antics is all that most people seem to want, and the "news" is, after all, a business.


The new media of talk radio, blogging, etc. are doing a good job of disrupting the mainstream media. Case in point: Sandy Berger just admitted his swiping of highly confidential documents from special "reading rooms" - some of it in his socks. Can you imagine the uproar if if Condoleezz was caught like Berger? The lefty's who run the mainstream media are under attack like no other time in the past. And it's good.


I read Merrill Brown's report and found nothing I did not already know. Like newspapers and TV newscasts, the report was filled with bad journalism; repetition, a tone that suggests shock or surprise with trends all of us have known for years or decades. Worst of all it was overly long. When printed out, the report took 15 pages to say nothing new.

And you know what? The comments posted here are more illuminating as to the industry's problems. Anna summed up those problems in one sentence:

''I think that, especially when you don't have a lot of life experience, a diet of unframed facts, he-said-she-said-isms, horse-race campaign reporting and hyperbole has next to no nutritional value.''

And it doesn't taste good, either.

A former colleague of mine used even fewer words when our managing editor asked for ideas to restructure our paper. His suggestion: ''Stop publishing boring stories.''

Did the publisher listen? No. Will publishers listen to Ms. Brown or the rest of us? Of course not. They'll start handing out free newspapers filled with even more boring stories, and advertisers, hungry for any alternative to the monopolistic dailies, will take the bait.

Revenue problem solved. Journalism problem pushed aside.

Ran Talbott

"if someone makes a mistake, the entire net corrects it within hours"

Obviously not, since it hasn't "corrected" this ridiculous notion.

All that happens on a blog is that one statement, by a person who usually has no established authority, which may or may not be "the truth" as the author sees it, is contradicted/supported by one or more statements made by other person(s) of no established authority, who also may or may not be telling the truth. And which may or may not ever be seen by people who've already read, believed, and repeated the first statement.

While it's usually true that a correct _response_ appears somewhere in the same general vicinity as the original error/lie, it's rarely true that the initial statement is "corrected". Instead, sorting out which parts of what postings are true is left as an exercise for the reader.

That's a fine way for a group of _already_-informed people to evaluate alleged "facts" and determine which interpretations of them are most likely to be correct. But, as a way for people to _become_ informed on a topic, it sucks. Royally.

It's sad to see how little historical perspective is brought to these discussions. The kinds of weblogs we're discussing here are, at bottom, really just BBSes with hyperlinks and nicer fonts. And we have over 25 years of history with BBSes, discussion fora on Compuserve and other big services, and Usenet that tells us how well they work as news sources. It's not surprising that the proponents of "citizen journalism" don't bring up this track record, because it makes the "New News Media" look an awful lot like the "New Economy".

And the "Ship it now, fix it in the field" philosophy that underlies blog-based "journalism" has a history of its own. It brought us a generation of crap cars. It brought us a generation of crap software. And now it's working on bringing us a generation of crap "information" and political discourse.

Blogs and the like have a valuable role to play in the _processing_ of news and information produced by by other sources. But expecting them to function as primary news sources, themselves, is an enormous waste of time, and an invitation to misinformation-induced disaster.

Ran Talbott

"Someone always knows who's lying"

Unless pretty much everyone knows who that "someone" is, his/her identification of the liar is just one more input to a process of Brownian motion.

"and especially in comment sections, PR blather is dealt with harshly."

Sometimes. So are unpleasant truths, sometimes. Whether something is treated "harshly" is a function of the attitudes and beliefs of the audience at hand, not of its objectively-verifiable validity or veracity.

mark fletcher

Just as food loses its nutritional value the more it is handled and modified from the source, it is so with news. The 18-34 group have grown up in a world where they are closer to the source so it is only natural they are skeptical of 'modified' news and of out of date delivery mechanisms.


Re: newspapers - has anyone noticed that in most papers, it takes to the 5th to 6th paragraph to [maybe] find out what the facts of the story are. This is consistent from paper to paper. So much fluff and preamble. Why? The need to fill space.

Newspapers are captive of the advertisers, their real customers. If reporters got right to the point, their stories wouldn't take much space and then there wouldn't be more space to sell to advertisers.

Advertising is such a broken model nowadays. Advertisers want to believe that they are really influencing people towards their products, while sellers of advertising space encourage advertisers to believe that people are being influenced. But are they really? I think not.

I rarely look at (or even notice) most advertising in print media. On TV, my VCR automatically fasts forwards through advertising. On radio, I switch channels when advertising comes on. On the net, I use ad blocker software. Of course, the only downside of blocking out 98% of the ads is that I'm rarely up-to-date on what's hot and what's not.

Advertisers do realize this, which is why they are constantly looking for other opportunities to place their ads. Advertisers are now trying product placements in TV shows/movies along with viral marketing. But when you see some kind of car awarded on Survivor, does it influence you? When someone you know talks up a product, do you trust that they aren't getting paid by someone to do so? IMO, advertising is a primary contributor to poor news reporting these days.

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