Sunday, April 5, 2009

Newspaper Arrogance: Who Knows Best

I had hoped it might have been weaned out of the system by the current crisis, but I keep running into what I'll call newspaper arrogance. It is that only those journalists in the newsrooms of our nation's newspapers really know the TRUTH. One journalist who spoke to my graduate class at USC's Annenberg School recently said something to the effect: I'll admit that there is a lot of diverse information on the internet, but 80% of it is moronic.

I've had the exact opposite experience reading blogs and web sites. I learn a lot from not very well known, but sometimes very smart observers. Yes, the original beat reporting may not be as well done, (or could even disappear given the economic state of newspapers and that is a problem) but on the web you can get information directly from the horses mouth, so to speak.

I agree with Robert Niles latest post: Newsrooms can't expect j-school graduates with one 200-level econ course to their credit to be able to attract an audience covering the business beat when they are competing with bloggers who have PhDs in economics, or years of industry experience.

Yes, the reader has to ferret out the bias, understand that a particular blogger may have an ax to grind, or an industry to protect, but the ability to actually get at the raw data, the survey results that the journalist summarizes, the congressional report that the reporter references, make the internet a better source of accurate information in the long run; it's just that you don't have an editor as gatekeeper or proof reader to guard against mistakes, bias and omissions, so you have to do it as a critical reader. Yourself. And that's a little more time consuming, but not so awfully bad.

2 comments:

  1. There is a lot of nonsense on the web, but as you said if you ferret out the best information, there is much of value.

    For the duration of the campaign I found the news from TPMcafe.com, Politico.com, and 531.com to be far superior to any of the print or broadcast media. For the economic crisis, TPMcafe, Greg Manckiw and Paul Krugman (OK his blog is on the NY Time site), and similar sites have been very useful.

    By the time I "learn" something in the mainstream media I have known it for two days or more from the web. Getting information from the web does require the reader to do more of the sifting and sorting. However, as you point out, following the blogs of professors of economics is far more informative than watching TV or reading newspapers.

    Where I think the web falls short is local reporting.

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  2. stuart k. coppensApril 6, 2009 at 4:45 AM

    The role of delivering disciplined, accurate and timely news could be a good business model. Delivering that news on paper, supported by print advertising is not a sustainable business. If a "Newspaper" is going to survive the passing of the Boomer Generation, it will need to determine how to monitize the news distribution using another medium than paper.

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