Defending legacy news organizations by pointing out the shortcomings of new media outlets is like an an old farmer trying to justify his failing crops by comparing his harvest to the first plant of the young city folk who moved in down the road: the old farmer has had longer to try to get it right.
Legacies such as the New York Times and Washington Post should know better by now, and yet, they—like journalists from lesser-famed news sources and just as bloggers (both pajama-wearing and office-attired)—don’t seem to have a compass of journalism principles to guide them.
Perhaps this is the Decline and Fall of 20th-Century Journalism, and we’ve just been experiencing media decadence, which will hasten the end of old-world journalism and usher in the dawn of a new era of information sharing.
Look no further than the past week to see the evidence of old-journalism decay:
- There was, of course, Charlotte Allen’s editorial in the Washington Post on her distaste for certain women—as horrifying as it was error-riddled.
- Little defense has been offered against the accusation that American journalists tend to protect rather than expose the secrets of powerful people, a sharp contrast to The Scotsman printing the “monster” remark by Obama’s aide, even though she tried to strike it from the record after saying it. MSNBC’s Tucker Carlson magnified the apparent US media weakness when he had The Scotsman reporter on his show.
- Buy-out bids at the New York Times were due last week, but if those staff members who opted were too few to fill up the 100 newsroom cuts announced in late February, then the paper will have to resort to lay-offs. As one long-running writer at the Times put it, “People here are used to the idea that that doesn’t happen here.”
- Add to all of that the dubious media coverage of the 2008 U.S. presidential nomination race, the frequent short-comings of the American press in international news, and not to mention the incessant celebrity gossip.
As the Washington Post‘s Jim Hoagland put it in his worthy piece, Long Winter for the Media,
Access to the Internet gives the generations living today the choice to be the best-informed, or the worst-informed, human beings in history — but we will never be able to claim that we were the least-informed. Celebrity, slime and crude polemics pour from the electronic faucets as easily as high-minded exegeses.
Where are the leaders of the information and media revolution to guide the straying generations living today to ethical, interesting and correct information?