Monday, June 19, 2006

Popping Journalism's Bubble

Jay Rosen writes at washingtonpost.com today about how the internet has changed the nature of journalism. (wait, does that sentence make me a journalist?) He doesn't address something that I think is a very important factor in all of this. Journalists are information experts - they know how to collect it and they have the means to distribute it. But they tend not to be experts in the information that they distribute. This is an increasing problem in the 24-hours news business. It used to be that journalists spent more time collecting information than distributing it. This gave them the opportunity to understand the information they were distributing - to become, if not an expert, at least an informed interested party. With the dawn of 24-hour news, journalists spend more time distributing information than acquiring it. Everyone wants to get the word out first, so they don't take the time to digest it.

The Internet has taken this lazy approach to journalism and kicked it in the gut. Now average citizens become information gatherers with a few key strokes. Those who are experts on the information have a way to tell the world the journalists are getting it wrong. Witnesses can tell their own story directly, without the journalistic middleman. Journalists are suddenly privy to the dinner-table conversations about their work. And they can join in. It's freaking them out a little. But, for the most part, I'd say that's a good thing.

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