February 27, 2003

Mini Me(dia)

I'm getting whiplash from following the polemic about whether blogging is journalism.

The troglodyte traditional journalists (thanks to J.D. Lasica for the caveman reference) hunker defensively in their newsholes, refusing to acknowledge how changing media is affecting their profession. The nouveau J-bloggers strut their stuff publicly, offering opinion, insight and sometimes invective, often without acknowledging that the news to which they are reacting was provided by the traditional journalists.

What we have here is the men-women-Mars-Venus thing: Most bloggers are not (or haven't been) journalists, and most journalists are not (but maybe will be someday) bloggers. For now, they just don't get each other.

This is a dysfunctional dynamic that fails to embrace the flattening of the information hierarchy brought about by the advances of nano-publishing software and miniaturization of image-capture technology.

Glenn Reynolds, the Instapundit, writes in his column for Tech Central Station that "the coming thing in alternative web media is multimedia," digital photos and videos made to record an event (a basic component of journalism) or to propagate a point of view.

Reynolds points to a video made by conservative commentator Evan Coyne Maloney about the anti-war protests in New York and says: "Equipped with a camera and a microphone, and fairly rudimentary titles and editing, Maloney produced a video that reached literally millions, and that sent a message very, very different from the one that mainstream media were sending about the protests and those protesting."

This type of what Reynolds calls guerilla media, and what I call mini media, supports the argument made by blogging guru Dave Winer in an interview with News.com that mainstream media, in its deteriorated, lowest-common-denominator state, adds little value to the news. Winer says:

"The typical news article consists of quotes from interviews and a little bit of connective stuff and some facts, or whatever. Mostly it's quotes from people. If I can get the quotes with no middleman in between--what exactly did CNN add to all the pictures?"

Responding to Reynolds, Jeff Jarvis of BuzzMachine keys on one of my favorite points: "The cost of media production is falling to near-zero at the same time that the retail value of content is falling rapidly."

The value of public information is approaching nil. Newspapers (and news networks), which once perched haughtily atop the information pyramid dispensing a well-measured dose of daily news, now share space on an always-on, ever-expanding mini-media continuum whose agenda is rapidly slipping from their control.

The question asked by Winer (what exactly did CNN add to all the pictures?) has to be answered as well by newspapers (what exactly did we add to the information?). Or, to put it another way: What type of journalists are we going to be?

The future of newspapers depends on how they define themselves in the world of journalism regardless of how many others choose to enter it.

 News.com Blogging comes to Harvard
 Glenn Reynolds Guerrilla Media

Posted by Tim Porter at February 27, 2003 09:37 AM