September 30, 2005

A New York State of Mind

I used up most of my decent thinking about the Blogger-Big Media chaw-down in New York before it happened. [Read: News Meets the Global Thought Bubble.] But I'll make a couple of observations and then point toward better stuff from the other participants:

 One element was noticeably missing from the Big Media folks (Jonathan Klein, CNN; Andrew Heyward, CBS; Rick Kaplan, MSNBC; Paul Steiger and Bill Grueskin, Wall Street Journal; Kinsey Wilson, USA Today; Martin Nisenholtz, New York Times) - anyone from beyond the top tier (read East Coast). The biggest struggles for the hearts and minds of readers/viewers are being fought in the heartland. So is some of the best work. Next time add someone from McClatchy or Morris.

 The level of awareness of blogs and their capacity among some of the media executives was much higher than I've seen in most newspaper newsrooms. This, of course, reflects the caliber of the people in the room (as Susan Crawford said: " it's easy to tell why and how they got to where they are. They were curious, charming, thoughtful, and well-spoken."

 There are a lot of scarily smart people in the world thinking about how use technology to keep journalism intact as a business.

Some quotes (mostly paraphrased) from others:

 Terry Heaton: "There's a big difference between people who write because the have something to say people who are paid to write."

 Paul Steiger: Financially successful news media in the future will need at least two things: Uniquely broad credibility and uniquely exciting argument.

 Merrill Brown: The internet revolution is still in its infancy and the biggest opportunities in the future will come from places that are the least expected. Examples: Craigslist and Facebook.

 Dan Gillmor: Advice for news organizations: The more experimentation you have, the better (enable creative people); think about the technology of blogging as a tool that helps you listen.

 Jay Rosen: The production model of doing the news - still operative in most news organizations - worked but it is an "intellectual disaster." Two years ago I wrote:

"To produce newspapers in this manner requires efficient, repetitive action - papers are scripted in advance, before the news happens; reporters are told how long to write, before they cover the stories; photographers are given dimensions of an illustration, before they take the pictures. This way of working discourages innovation and encourages rote behavior. At a time when journalists are better educated than ever before, it is ironic how many of them still work on the factory floor." [Read: Shutting Down the News Factory.]

 Jay Rosen: Journalists "believe a hierarchy of good exists that fact is higher than opinion. It is not seen that way on the web."

Here's what other participants had to say about the event:

 Susan Crawford, law professor, cyber-law expert:

"The print guys are very proud of their priesthood, and the culture of journalism is just about the strongest professional bond I've ever seen. The emotional energy that filled the room when the print guys started decrying the "potentially deadly" inaccuracy of bloggers was remarkable. We Are The Truth, they seemed to think -- We Have Standards. Those bloggers, they're just typing. We do so much more. That's the part -- the pride -- that made me worry about beloved print journalism."

 Terry Heaton notes the "extraordinary" observations made by Heyward, president of CBS News:

 A breakdown of our formulas. We're being influenced by bloggers and this idea of conversation.
 The illusion of omniscience is out of date, this idea that everything has an answer and that there's one truth.
 The notion that journalism with a point-of-view is an acceptable form.

 David Weinberger, of Joho the Blog and fellow at Harvard's Berkman Center:

"The MSM were not univocal in their reaction to the Web and blogs. That's appropriate and it's progress. There are still some who think they "get" blogs because they're using blogs as stringers. But others are genuinely uncertain about the future of mainstream news, which is (imo) also appropriate. They're facing the possiblity of genuine discontinuity."

 Jeff Jarvis of Buzzmachine captures Steiger's summarizing comments:

"I think I've heard that the magic of this revolution is that it allows people to reach each other and it allows people to learn from and teach each other. It also allows people to mobilize together. At the same time many people will do this because it's fun, because it feels empowering. Some of those folks will decide they really want to do this and will find ways to get paid. They will develop business models."

 Jay Rosen of Pressthink notes the Big Fear of Big Media is the Big Money held by non-media companies"

"In competing on the Web, the bloggers do not alarm big media. It's people like Bill Gannon. Yahoo worries them, with its surging revenues, huge traffic flow, and recent moves in news and editorial that involve original content. The portals attract talent, and with their billions they can fund innovation, and roll out new products. This capacity dwarfs what the old line media companies can do, even if everyone on the editorial staff became a Webbie overnight."

All in all, a good morning's conversation, one that in various forms - especially more regional and more local - journalists and news executives (not mutually exclusive) needs to occur more often.

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Posted by Tim Porter at September 30, 2005 02:38 PM