An interesting post on Wired about the way journalism is changing in the face of new media. Not that unexpected a perspective from a magazine that has morphed into something more like a blog itself. The gist is essentially that news media is becoming more of a service than a product with the major news publications being more of a consolidator that directs readers/watchers to where the news is located.
To me this is tragic, but also reveals that the old media doesn’t have the business sense to deserve to survive. The news media was caught with their pants down, thinking they controlled the market and only had themselves to compete with they became less news, more current affairs, then more gossip and speculation offering opinion over insight. Blogging came along and suddenly there was an alternative and better method for people to get their gossip, opinion and even some current affairs. Better because they could also be part of it, offering their own opinions and helping determine the relevance of particular pieces.
Faced with this, the ‘old’ media had a number of options, but by this stage was too used to taking the easy road and finding better profits down them, at least in the short term. Rather than try and re-invent themselves, use their structural difference to build some sort of differentiation from the new entrant, they tried to emulate their new competition in the false belief that they could take it over. A bit like Microsoft came into the Internet game too late and tried to take control. This will probably have the same success.
It is tragic because we have lost truly objective investigative reporting that was an important part of the checks and balance on power and privilege. It is not too late for them to change path. Corporate media cannot compete with Blogs and social networking on new media’s terms so they must find a new purpose if they are to survive, what better as a new purpose than the one they used to fill. Blogs have not been able to fill this place yet as true investigative journalism needs time and resources and does not work well to deadlines and daily posts. The gap will not be open very long though. Look at some sites like Groklaw that produces great insight on some of the legal wranglings, or some of the detailed analysis that is appearing on sites like TechCrunch. Not all Bloggers will morph into real journalists, but some have the ability to and will given time.
The past decade has taught us that when politicians and business do not fear the public eye some will test those new limits and we all are worse off for it. I’ll avoid the controversy that mention of some of the political ones would create but highlight things like the dot bomb, Enron, and the current mortgage crisis. All of these might had been avoided if there were investigative journalists still around rather than gossipers and mouthpieces.