The new old journalism
An article for you journalist and PR types, a brief one about how print journalism can’t keep up with the speed that information spreads electronically.
It makes two interesting points. One is that it leaves journalists more at the mercy of PR types because there isn’t any “news” anyway. (You PR types!)
The other point is that earlier days saw the same problem: the slowness with which newspapers were produced could not compete with word of mouth. And so the papers knew that their place was in commentary.
It opens with this anecdote about a story being filed in 1844:
By good fortune he was the only reporter on hand when the jury returned unexpectedly with its verdict. From the courthouse he rushed by carriage to the ferry harbour, where the Times had a steamship ready. This whisked him across the Irish Sea to north Wales, where, with his rivals still nowhere to be seen, he boarded the train to London. Arriving breathless at the Times offices, he was greeted by a man in shirtsleeves he took to be a printer, who exclaimed: “So glad to see you safe over, sir! So they’ve found him guilty?” Russell, flushed with pride in his scoop, replied: “Yes, guilty, my friend.”
Alas, he was addressing an artfully disguised representative of the rival Morning Herald, which merrily printed the verdict next day.
But if the article is trying to say that papers, threatened by electronically delivered news and social networking, need to focus on in-depth commentary instead, it’s missing something–that commentary is also going online. Maybe only a few of the umpteen bijillion opinions posted by every soul with a keyboard qualify as in-depth. But maybe as books and culture are eaten by the ethereal behemoth, they’ll come out the other end as more robust content. That is, maybe books can influence the internet, not just the other way around.
At least I hope so.