Media deep thinkers grapple with the rise of the internet

Nearly everyone reading American Thinker understands how the internet has reshaped journalism, but the denizens of what remains of the journalistic establishment are only very slowly beginning to catch on.  Their baby steps are actually quite amusing to watch, for they betray a ferocious cluelessness, even in the face of the economic catastrophe that is causing the former titans of the industry to struggle for survival, and working journos to live in fear of layoffs.

Case in  point: The New York Times, whose public editor (their name for ombudsman) Arthur S. Brisbane, grapples with that paper's hilarious and telling sanitizing of incoming executive editor Jill Abramson's revealing comment in a story appearing on the web, "In my house growing up, The Times substituted for religion," she said. "If The Times said it, it was the absolute truth."

The reason ultimately settled upon by Brisbane, after speaking with other deep thinkers at the Times is that new material added to the story crowded out Abramson's self-revelation. 

Later versions appeared without that quote, and various news organizations and bloggerssaw this as airbrushing something that could cause problems for The Times. In response, a Times spokeswoman said the story was updated with fresher material from Ms. Abramson's speech to the staff later that day.

Not very convincing. But Brisbane, whose new boss will be Abramson quite soon, does not stick his neck out on the topic. He does manage to quote Abramson respectfully on a couple of other points regarding the Times' practices when correcting and updating material that appears on its website.

Coming in the wake of much spot-on ridicule in the blogosphere, the memory hole approach was incriminating, not sanitizing.  Glenn Reynolds of instapundit summed up Brisbane's piece:

"That airbrushing we do? Maybe we should think about not doing that."

Taking up the same issue of corrections/updates, the deep thinkers of the foundation-supported "Media Lab" publish on taxpayer-supported NPR's website a similarly amusing piece on what the mainstream media can do to improve its vanishing credibility. The title itself is plaintive: "How Newsrooms Can Win Back Their Reputations" I give them credit for recognizing they have a problem.

The suggestions, as far as they go, are commonsensical

1. Link generously

A piece without links is like a story without the names of its sources. Every link tells a reader, "I did my research. And you can double-check me."

2. Show your work

The news isn't static, and online stories don't have to be, either. Every article or post can and should be improved after it's published. Stay accountable and transparent by providing a "history" of every version of each story (à la Wikipedia) that lets readers see what's changed.

3. Help people report your mistakes

The Internet is a powerfully efficient feedback mechanism. Yet many news organizations don't use it. Put a report-an-error button on every story: It tells readers you want to know when you've goofed. Then pay attention to what they tell you.

But this essay avoids the elephant in the bathtub. AT contributor David Paulin (himself a former MSM journo) summed it up succinctly: "it's that their reporters and editors no longer share the same world views as their readers." There is no way media establishmentarians can acknowledge that reality. Far too threatening. 

Michelle Obama, for one, has no trouble acknowledging it. See for yourself" Michelle Obama: "Fortunately, We Have Help From The Media"

The helpful (to the Obamas) folks at Associated Press, who didn't bother reporting President Obama's appalling insult to Medal of Honor winners and the Tenth Mountain Division (see here and here if you are not up to speed), found themselves in a bit of a quandary when the White House formally apologized.  How to acknowledge this highly newsworthy event without admitting that you're covering for the president? The clever-by-half journos of AP gave it a good shot, but Tim Blumer of Newsbusters, well, busted them on "Going Orwell."

Nearly everyone reading American Thinker understands how the internet has reshaped journalism, but the denizens of what remains of the journalistic establishment are only very slowly beginning to catch on.  Their baby steps are actually quite amusing to watch, for they betray a ferocious cluelessness, even in the face of the economic catastrophe that is causing the former titans of the industry to struggle for survival, and working journos to live in fear of layoffs.

Case in  point: The New York Times, whose public editor (their name for ombudsman) Arthur S. Brisbane, grapples with that paper's hilarious and telling sanitizing of incoming executive editor Jill Abramson's revealing comment in a story appearing on the web, "In my house growing up, The Times substituted for religion," she said. "If The Times said it, it was the absolute truth."

The reason ultimately settled upon by Brisbane, after speaking with other deep thinkers at the Times is that new material added to the story crowded out Abramson's self-revelation. 

Later versions appeared without that quote, and various news organizations and bloggerssaw this as airbrushing something that could cause problems for The Times. In response, a Times spokeswoman said the story was updated with fresher material from Ms. Abramson's speech to the staff later that day.

Not very convincing. But Brisbane, whose new boss will be Abramson quite soon, does not stick his neck out on the topic. He does manage to quote Abramson respectfully on a couple of other points regarding the Times' practices when correcting and updating material that appears on its website.

Coming in the wake of much spot-on ridicule in the blogosphere, the memory hole approach was incriminating, not sanitizing.  Glenn Reynolds of instapundit summed up Brisbane's piece:

"That airbrushing we do? Maybe we should think about not doing that."

Taking up the same issue of corrections/updates, the deep thinkers of the foundation-supported "Media Lab" publish on taxpayer-supported NPR's website a similarly amusing piece on what the mainstream media can do to improve its vanishing credibility. The title itself is plaintive: "How Newsrooms Can Win Back Their Reputations" I give them credit for recognizing they have a problem.

The suggestions, as far as they go, are commonsensical

1. Link generously

A piece without links is like a story without the names of its sources. Every link tells a reader, "I did my research. And you can double-check me."

2. Show your work

The news isn't static, and online stories don't have to be, either. Every article or post can and should be improved after it's published. Stay accountable and transparent by providing a "history" of every version of each story (à la Wikipedia) that lets readers see what's changed.

3. Help people report your mistakes

The Internet is a powerfully efficient feedback mechanism. Yet many news organizations don't use it. Put a report-an-error button on every story: It tells readers you want to know when you've goofed. Then pay attention to what they tell you.

But this essay avoids the elephant in the bathtub. AT contributor David Paulin (himself a former MSM journo) summed it up succinctly: "it's that their reporters and editors no longer share the same world views as their readers." There is no way media establishmentarians can acknowledge that reality. Far too threatening. 

Michelle Obama, for one, has no trouble acknowledging it. See for yourself" Michelle Obama: "Fortunately, We Have Help From The Media"

The helpful (to the Obamas) folks at Associated Press, who didn't bother reporting President Obama's appalling insult to Medal of Honor winners and the Tenth Mountain Division (see here and here if you are not up to speed), found themselves in a bit of a quandary when the White House formally apologized.  How to acknowledge this highly newsworthy event without admitting that you're covering for the president? The clever-by-half journos of AP gave it a good shot, but Tim Blumer of Newsbusters, well, busted them on "Going Orwell."

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