NY Times condemns Citizen Journalism, launching a futile civil war that neither side will win 11/30/07Posted by Steve Boriss in Citizen journalism, NYTimes.
In a startling speech, NY Times Executive Editor Bill Keller launched a gratuitous civil war in the journalism community by grossly mischaracterizing the work of Jeff Jarvis, a capable and talented individual sincerely seeking to save Old Media from extinction. Keller falsely claimed that Jarvis had said that all bloggers were “Citizen Journalists” and they would ultimately replace mainstream media. Keller then set this strawman-of-his-own-making ablaze, haughtily declaring that no “newcomers” could match the Times’ “worldwide…corps of trained skilled reporters to witness events,” nor their “rigorous set of standards” and “code of accuracy and fairness.”
But unlike Jeff Jarvis in his defense of himself, I am willing to douse and defend that strawman with just a couple of minor tweaks. The correct and original definition of “blogs” (formerly “web logs”) was a site that presented information in reverse chronological order. This format has already largely replaced Old Media’s daily news snapshots. A newcomer named Matt Drudge has already proven that a blogger can get more online traffic than the NY Times. What’s more, Matt Drudge can draw from a much larger set of news sources around the world than the Times’ vaunted corps of trained reporters — whoever said that reporters are worthless unless they are on a news organization’s own payroll?
And the time has come to call the Press’ bluff on the “journalism of verification” that Keller invoked as a NY Times standard in his speech. In the closest thing there is to scripture in modern journalism, “The Elements of Journalism” by Kovach and Rosenstiel, we learn that when journalists were asked where they learned concepts of verification “overwhelmingly the answer was: by trial and error and on my own or from a friend [and rarely from] journalism school or from their editors.” In other words, everyone seems to have their own method of verification, including we can assume the Times’ Stalin-apologist Walter Duranty and fabricator Jayson Blair.
Jeff Jarvis is dead-right that the future of journalism is networked — where he is wrong is on who will be connected. In my view, there will be independent topic experts who create stories, and each will be networked to multiple separate entities that aggregate and edit those stories for their audiences. Right now, neither average citizens nor reporters are topic experts, nor are traditional editors aggregators. And yet, Old Media still resists change, even from allies like Jeff Jarvis. The NY Times has met the real enemy and it is themselves.