Crossposted From My Work Blog – Me on Media

As I was coming back from my bone-liquefying cold (defined as one that leaves you draped over the sofa like a boneless chicken), I got a last-minute request to stand in for Andrew Nystrom of the LA Times on a LA Press Club panel discussing trends in the news industry in the face of all this customer-generated content.

They just sent over some pictures….

Here’s the lineup. From the right, Mickey Kaus of Slate, Erin Broadley of Village Voice newspapers, Thomas Kelley of Yahoo, me, Jill Stewart of the LA Weekly.


Here’s Jill laughing at my ineffable smugness (I’m putting this picture here to try and train myself not to ever, ever use that facial expression in public again).


I had three basic points, which I’ll cover here briefly:

One. Mainstream media as we know it is toast.

…the rest is over at my work blog, Charmed Particles.

One thought on “Crossposted From My Work Blog – Me on Media”

  1. What few people seem to realize is the degree to which local TV news is very much identical in form to local newspapers.

    TV news is primarily a bunch of pretty faces with pleasant voices going through the motions. Reading wire reports of national news. Doing “fill-in-the-blank” local journalism (live on the scene where hours ago a fatal vehicle collision occurred, now we interview the mother of the victim “how do you feel?”, etc, etc.) Doing shoddy “human interest” and “quirky news” journalism. And doing very little legitimate original reporting at all.

    Newspapers are very similar, with the particular ambiance, bias, and style of newspaper writing replacing the voice of the reporter or anchor. To some extent this illusion is far more seductive than TV news because writing seems far more original than reading and the literary tone of much newspaper writing seems more sophisticated than vulgar TV news could ever achieve. But in the end it’s the same thing, regurgitations of national wire reports, zombie local journalism, a great deal of filler (opinion, comics, ads, etc.), and not much original reportage.

    Not too long ago such news regurgitation was worthwhile. Newspapers served as the primary source for all news, it was necessary to maintain a massive standing army of people who did little more than pass along information and to rewrite it to fit the paper’s conventions and space available.

    Today, the vast majority of that work is obsolete and redundant. We don’t need news regurgitators, we can get news from its original source directly. News regurgitation is no longer valuable, especially not regurgitation as expensive, slow, and inconvenient as a physical paper can manage. Similarly, print-ads are no longer valuable, because there are so many better, faster, cheaper, and more reliable ways of advertising.

    All of the dross that has built up around newspapers, this great news regurgitation machine, is now evaporating, it is no longer valuable and it can no longer sustain a paper alone. There are two things happening as a result. First, people are discovering that there is nothing, no jewel at the core, inside this dross, just more dross. There is almost no legitimate original reporting at papers. Second, papers have come to believe that it is the dross (the standing armies of regurgitators, the particular peculiarities of fitting a story into a printed paper, the particular biases and tone of paper writers) that defines newspapers, and they are unwilling, as a group, to exist without it.

    The biggest problem for newspapers is that the sort of news organization that can survive is harder to create from an existing paper than it would be to create from nothing. Just about every aspect of today’s newspaper apparatchik, the deification of J-school over all other expertises, the peculiar needs of writing for the physical page and the schedule of the printing press, the biases and perspectives of today’s newsroom, all of these are actively unhelpful in creating the sort of organization that can survive in the modern age.

    Papers need to get lean, they need to dump their armies of drones who do busywork, they need to concentrate on a handful of individuals who produce legitimately novel work. They need to embrace the web. They need to give up the idea of being the one portal of information for their users. They need to concentrate on expertise and unique insight first and writing talent second (rather than writing talent first, and the ability to believably fake being an expert second). They need to do the legwork that nobody else is doing. They need to find a niche and report the hell out of it. Michael Totten is an excellent example. There is a very real potential here for a renaissance of the journalist, newspapers are blind to it because they have grown so corrupt and jaded they cannot see it, but the need and the opportunity is there.

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