Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Now We’re All Journalists (or are we?)

After some spirited discussion about the role of the media in Tanzania after my last posting, I thought I would follow up and recommend that everyone read the opinion piece, “The American Press on Suicide Watch,” written by op-ed columnist, Frank Rich, and published in the New York Times May 9.

Here’s a link to the entire story: www.nytimes.com/2009/05/10/opinion/10rich.html

Here’s a telling quote: “….news gathering is not to be confused with opinion writing or bloviating — including that practiced here. Opinions can be stimulating and, for the audiences at Fox News and MSNBC, cathartic. We can spend hours surfing the posts of bloggers we like or despise, some of them gems, even as we might be moved to write our own blogs about local restaurants or the government documents we obsessively study online.

But opinions, however insightful or provocative and whether expressed online or in print or in prime time, are cheap. Reporting the news can be expensive. Some of it — monitoring the local school board, say — can and is being done by voluntary “citizen journalists” with time on their hands, integrity and a Web site. But we can’t have serious opinions about America’s role in combating the Taliban in Pakistan unless brave and knowledgeable correspondents (with security to protect them) tell us in real time what is actually going on there. We can’t know what is happening behind closed doors at corrupt, hard-to-penetrate institutions in Washington or Wall Street unless teams of reporters armed with the appropriate technical expertise and assiduously developed contacts are digging night and day. Those reporters have to eat and pay rent, whether they work for print, a TV network, a Web operation or some new bottom-up news organism we can’t yet imagine

Many media watchers have long forecasted the death of the American press as we know it. Rich makes a convincing argument that void will not completely be filled by bloggers and citizen journalists however critical their roles have become.

In the wake of newspaper closings and shrinking mastheads, I have several colleagues who have begun to work for online non-profit news sites. Such sites have sprouted up in numerous cities throughout the country. One example is MinnPost (www.minnpost.com) in Minnesota. They raise funds just like any NGO. Of course, you have to question if their reporting is biased to the perspectives of their donors. But hasn’t the news always been biased one way or another anyway?

It would be fascinating to see such an enterprise launched in Tanzania.


Iddy said...

I think it is about the time for American magazine to collapse. For the past decade I watched American media move from center to the far left. People don’t like what is inside those papers anymore. Apart from that internet contributed to kill the magazine world. Every time when you flip a local chronicle you found bunch of copy and paste news.

I used to subscribe for a WSJ, but I found out the same story in the paper I can get them on Bloomberg.com and many other sites so why waste my money. Newspaper used to offer intensive analysis and that is gone. People turned on different websites were citizen journalism rock sites like politico.com, huffingtonpost. com or townhall.com.


On the other hand, despite the sexual revolution the oldest profession still seems to be prospering.

I suspect these newspapers will still be around in one way or another...they only adapt thats all

salama said...


It'll be fascinating indeed to see that kind of change in our media. I'm also dying to see one day, the news program with analysis in its width, depth and intensity.
We need something that can really deliver to the people and not try to impress or reward the few.

But until then, for now it seems like people are still mesmerized with "udaku news" and the media itself is too bland.

Anonymous said...

I saw this on the NYT, and although spirited and factual to some extent, one wonders how much of it is just the good old guild inflating it's importance in the wake of an imminent death.

The fact is, the newspaper/ magazine is central in maintaining an informed populace, at the same time the American media's importance is highly overrated, it's characteristics including atom splitting over-analysis, signature partisanship to the extent of compromising neutrality and journalistic integrity and unadapting business models necessitated the entire setup to exhaust it's point of diminishing retuns, what sealed the doomed fate seems to be the current economic crisis.

It is true that citizen journalists mainly rely on newspaper and the death of newspaper would choke this source of information, but the existence of this very blog demonstrate - to an extent- that the people themselves can get the tempo -if not actually the facts- from the horses mouth.The newspapers are fighting this trend and truth because it is in their business interest to do so. They are aking up to the fact that they no longer have the empire of disbursing facts to the world, people can find out on their own.If a journalist will not expose some wrongdoing in the government some irked civil servant under a pen name will do so in some blog or forum.Admittedly the integrity and reliability is not the same, but at least you do not have a cabal from corporatracy on the news, whose motives and reliability is equally questionable.

I am debating on whether to slash the dailies from my Kindle (NYT/WSJ) and leave the weeklies/by weeklies (Time, Newsweek, The Nation)because I feel the quality content is sparse and unnecessarily expensive not only in monetary currency, but also time.

As far as Tanzania is concerned we do have a lot to learn.When a good number of citizen journalists are actually spotting significant ways to improve our journalism with practically every article, one wonders if the culture of complacency is degenerating into an idiocracy.

We may not all be journalists, but maybe journalism is overrated and we can just as well inform one another without the use of some overly regulated guild.