Old/New Media: Bring Out Your Dead!

Every week, I come across another blog comment where someone says they wish that old media would just hurry up and die already.

It’s not just that they know it should be dead.  It’s that often they seem to have limited vision of what would replace it.  It will be… social media!  New media! Unfiltered access to press releases, each with their own take on the news!  A thousand points of light!

That “old media is dead” is often intoned by someone who is surfing around, reading content that someone took time to link to — blogs, news sites, possibly even the online arm of some terrible dead old media — like BusinessWeek or the New York Times or WIRED or Rolling Stone — allows me to — well, write them off.  Or at least roll my eyes.

So this week, when I read that comment from another self-satisfied, snarky, there can-be-only-one-true-Ring/media/blog/whatever Clay or HeWhoMustNotBeNamedsays — but in this case, it was from a journalism student — it at least got my attention. *

In theory, J-school students are paying good money — as I once did — to learn the ethics, and laws, and standards, and tactics…

… of a dying profession.

Someone in J-school should be thinking about how to morph this field they’re entering.  How to do what they love, as the saying goes, so that the money — some money, at least — will follow. So having a J-School student eager to pronounce “old media” dead reminded me of that scene in Monty Python and the Holy Grail:

“Look ‘ere, ‘e says he’s not dead!”

“He will be soon.  He’s very ill.”

(man) “I’m getting better!  I don’t want to go on the cart!”

“Don’t be such a baby!… Look, isn’t there something you can do?”

(at which point the cart driver clocks the older man on the head, and he’s laid — now presumably dead — on the cart)

This student pointed out that in the age of Twitter, we no longer need “old media.”  By the time they get to the news, he pointed out, it’s old already.

Wow, he’s going to be some reporter, eh?  Can’t get anything by him.

I don’t want to sound all naggy, but there are some things the New York Times does better than nearly any organization on the planet.  And many other “old media” that do really damn good reporting.  Including broadcast.

Just because they need to figure out a new way to make money, doesn’t mean the reporting is dead or even wrong — just the vehicle.  Suppose every time a car died, we shot its owner?  Yeah, that’s stupid too.

Every day, I read fantastic blogs doing great reporting as well.  And by reporting, I don’t mean tweeting that there was an earthquake.  I’m on Twitter.  I know there was an earthquake.

I mean making me aware of aspects of the news I hadn’t thought of, because I don’t have access to it.  The New York Times and its ilk can open doors that you and I can’t open — and that should be opened.  Westword, my local “alternative newsweekly,” has been doing great reporting for 30 years.

On a completely different level, a local newspaper (or blog, if everyone in the community has a computer) unites a community in a way that niche  blogs or multi-media cannot.

So put away the Harry Potter books, okay?  This is not a situation where one kind of media must die  in order for the other to survive.   (See: he’s dead Jim!)

Old media does have to figure out something new.  Not just “let’s make them pay for content,” though that’s a start.  The first step in innovation is usually incremental; and the next step will be more radical.

* * *

Gordon Crovitz, Steven Brill and Leo Hindery aligned last week behind a pay-wall.  Don’t know whether you’d pay for Gordon Crovitz?  Maybe you’d pay for others.  I probably would.  And the AP building its own aggregator?  They’re totally onto something: stop AP content and, in this magical world of downsizing that is contemporary journalism, you have just choked off 1/3 of most American news — papers and sites– at least.

Whatever we come up with, we’ll need the old media, new media, social media — and probably something that hasn’t even been labeled yet — plus  our brand new J-school peeps to deliver this excellent new model.

Something hopefully more imaginative than clonking old media over the head and throwing it on the cart.

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3 Comments

Filed under Media, saving newspapers, Uncategorized, Web 2.0

3 responses to “Old/New Media: Bring Out Your Dead!

  1. emilywsussman

    I don’t think that all of “new media” (i.e. the HuffPo or Newser) is under any illusion that it could do without the content provided by “old media.” But they do provide a very valuable service to me: context and findability.

    Example: I’ve come to appreciate the snappy headlines and insightful summaries produced by new/old hybrid sites like the New York Observer. Last week, the NYO titled one of its headline-links “Times Investor Offers Advice to Arthur: Stop Sending Frank Bruni to Paris.” Which, of course, was a witty (read: appealing) and incisive way to get me to read a Reuters’ blog entry about the behind-the-scenes of last week’s New York Times board meeting.

    The NYO doesn’t seem to archive its direct-link headlines. But you can find the cached page here (headline is halfway down scroll):
    http://74.125.95.132/search?q=cache:N3GYHwbaeBUJ:www.observer.com/index.php%3Fpage%3D2+observer+%22stop+sending+frank+bruni+to+texas%22&cd=1&hl=en&ct=clnk&gl=us&client=firefox-a

    And the direct link to the Reuters’ blog post here:
    (http://blogs.reuters.com/mediafile/2009/04/23/help-the-new-york-times-save/)

    Okay. So. New York Observer: Context? (check) Findability? (check) Value to me? (check plus!)

    Thanks for listening.
    Emily

    • alittleclarity

      Emily,
      I agree with you — one of my favorite aspects of the Internet is discovery. I mean, you found me — and I found you back, so to speak.

      My issue isn’t with old or new media, but with people who feel that only one kind of media is better. I just get impatient when anyone says there can be only one kind of media — that one is “old” and one is “new,” and therefore is good or bad — when really the newness or oldness comes from the mechanisms for discovery, as you point out — not from satisfying reporting, storytelling or analysis, wherever you find it.

      I’m hoping that we find a way to pay people to follow this path and still keep some standards and ethics in place — the standards being taught in journalism school, still, today; that we reshape institutions like the Times or the Observer so that they can make money to keep producing the content that we all find and link to — and yes, still support the independent blogs and vlogs and whatever’s next. A friend who blogs with an enormous following tweeted yesterday that she was offered $250 to blog on a particular topic. She responded, “why don’t you just take out an ad and avoid all the weirdness and slime?”

      Those are the kinds of things we’ll all have to solve. But comments like yours make me hopeful — I know that a lot of smart, cool people with various perspectives are simmering on this and will eventually come up with something that catches on because it makes sense.
      Thanks for stopping by!

  2. Hooray for the old media, and the old way of researching, supporting your information, with reputable sources. I get so tired of any media, especially those with a veneer of being a neutral news organization (Fox, etc.) that do not fact check, research and verify. They give a sort of permission to talking heads to bs about “information” which is not fact based. In fact, it is usually uninformed, unresearched opinion biased by a POV or axe to grind. It is not the 24/7 “new” news media that is at fault as much as it is all the “reporters,” “producers” and “editors” who were never trained in the old media/journalism schools ways of approaching news with an analytical eye and the patience to do careful research, quoting that is respectful of context, and verification of facts by reliable sources.

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