People with news, and people who want news

Those are two points of view examined in a recent post by Dave Winer.

“If the people with the news can publish it themselves, and they can; what’s to stop the people who want the news from reading it directly.”

Which puts me in mind of High Street Beat, a blog written by the mayor of Jefferson City. Ultimately, his readers get to decide if what he writes is “fair and honest,” but he can speak directly to them, as well as through MSM.

“When professional news people consider the Internet they think of it replacing them. Not so. It reduces their role to a bare minimum, makes them less necessary. I still want soundbites from the sources, but I want them to link to the full blog post behind the quote.”

“If reporters are to remain relevant they have to recast themselves, more humbly. Don’t think about “deputizing” us to do what you do. Instead think of the value of your rolodex, your sources. Cultivate and develop that rolodex. To the extent that you know who to call when a bit of news breaks, that’s the extent of your value in the new world, the one we live in now.”

Most of the reporters I’ve known and worked with work very hard. For not much money. But more than a few of them have viewed the companies they work for a the necessary infrastructure that makes it possible for them to report the news.

While the people running those companies viewed the newsrooms as a cog –a BIG cog, but a cog– in a machine whose purpose was to turn a profit. A classic dog and tail situation.

I’m reminded of that classic scene in Network where Arthur Jensen explains things to Howard Beale:

Jensen: The world is a college of corporations, inexorably deter- mined by the immutable by-laws of business. The world is a business, Mr. Beale! It has been since man crawled out of the slime, and our children, Mr.Beale, will live to see that perfect world in which there is no war and famine, oppression and brutality –one vast and ecumenical holding company, for whom all men will work to serve a common profit, in which all men will hold a share of stock, all necessities provided, all anxieties tranquilized, all boredom amused. And I have chosen you to preach this evangel, Mr. Beale.

Howard: (humble whisper) Why me?

Jensen: Because you’re on television, dummy. Sixty million people watch you every night of the week, Monday through Friday.

One thing, not the only thing, but one important thing that has distinguished reporters from their readers/viewers/listeners is the reporters had a platform or medium from which to report. That distinction has blurred, if not disappeared.

2 thoughts on “People with news, and people who want news

  1. “…are we amobae in the corporate superorganism?”
    I hope not. If we are, I wish it were not so. Shit, dude, I just put the Network clip up because I always enjoyed that scene.
    Are you trying to bum me out just before the holiday?

  2. So, Steve, which is it? Are we free agents in a marketplace of ideas, or are we amobae in the corporate superorganism? I don’t think we can be both and be completely true to the cause of either.
    I’ve been thinking a lot about money recently. I could use a great deal more of it than I have. But, then I spend time with people who have it and I wonder what it must be like to hold the world at arms’ length to protect what amounts to an abstraction, and I almost feel sorry for them. Money is a symptom of poverty. If there was no poverty, we would not need a currency with which to differentiate ourselves.
    And, so, I have to wonder if it’s even possible to shoehorn every human activity into a buyer-seller capitalist model. Some obviously think we can. But, should a doctor’s ministrations to the ill be a profit center? What about solving criminality? Should governance have a profit margin? What about citizenship itself? Isn’t journalism a component of this?
    Democracy is supposed to be about equal representation, and capitalism is about aggregating resources to serve one interest over others. Both have their uses, but I think maybe we should try to draw a line where the concentration of wealth begins to take away more than it gives.

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