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Journalists still have a role to play in the media mix

For several years now, most of us mainstream bloggers have been loftily contemptuous of paper and television “journalists”. They are ridiculous dinosaurs, say most of us, slaving away fully clothed at desks and at computers that they often don’t even own, pushing prejudices and biases that may not even be theirs, stuck in their own myopic little worlds and blind to the larger forces at work in the world. Worse, these bizarre individuals often insist on tramping about in the open air, talking to people who are, if anything, even more bewildered by the story in question than they are themselves. They need to get out less. Don’t they understand that there’s an internet in there, full of blogs, which they could learn stuff from? And none of these journalists have proper jobs, because this is how they make their living!

Actually, most journalists do make extensive use of the blogosphere. Where would they be without bloggers to supply them with facts and with coherent arguments?

But as for the idea that these journalists, writing in “newspapers”, present any sort of competitive threat to the mainstream blogosphere, well, most of us greet such outlandish notions with a pitying smile at best, and as often as not with loud laughter.

But I believe that we bloggers may be making that common error of confusing the typical with the most significant. Just opening up ten random newspapers and sticking a pin into them ten times, and then reading whatever one happens to encounter, doesn’t do justice to the potential importance of newspaper journalists. Sure, most of what they write is pompous crap recycled from anonymous political or business spin-doctors and gossip-mongers. But the best of the output of these journalists is often well worth reading, and bloggers can often learn useful extra titbits from them.

Obviously, there have to be bloggers to draw the attention of readers to the good stuff in newspapers. Regular people with jobs to do and lives to lead haven’t time to search through great piles of paper every day, looking for the occasional treasures buried in among the landfill. And the average journalist is indeed a bizarre figure, with little in the way of a future. But the best of the journalists are, I would argue, worthy to be ranked alongside the better bloggers, and some bloggers are starting to sit up and take notice.

Bishop Hill, for example, wrote magnanimously yesterday about the efforts of a journalist who writes under the name of “Fred Pearce”:

Still, Pearce is new to questioning climate science, and he hasn’t made a bad fist of this story.

Indeed.

Richard North is taking all this a stage further. Not only does he make extensive use of the reactions of journalists to stories first aired in his and other blogs. He also himself sometimes writes things for a newspaper. He even occasionally appears on television.

Wise moves. We bloggers must guard against complacency. We cannot and must not assume that our current domination of the media world will last indefinitely.

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10 comments to Journalists still have a role to play in the media mix

  • That last link is a riot – a pox on the BBC!

  • Damn, I just read a whole Sunny Hundal article by accident.

  • That last link is a riot – a pox on the BBC!

    Well, my licence fee is not paying for climate change denial, because I stopped paying it about a year ago. Something or other (I think it may have been about Palestine – I cannot really remember) caused me to log into my bank’s website and cancel the direct debit on the spot. The correspondence I have received since from TV licensing has been at least as entertaining as anything on the BBC.

  • Yes, Michael. What I meant though is that it seems that the BBC is damned if it does and damned if it doesn’t – so it’s damned either way (pox being the damnation of preference – where’s Alice when we need her?)

  • RRS

    It does seem that the term journalist is now applied to anyone (or more) who supplies content (of any kind) through any form of distribution, without regard for utility, verification or relevance.

    The Percherons who pulled their and human weight in the stages of animal power are a better analogy (even metaphor) than dinasours for that former office of journalist.

  • lucklucky

    Fred Pearce is bringing stuff that was in sceptics- in Guardianistas parlance deniers blogs- long ago. He doesn’t say anything about that lifting and even gets a pat in back from the dishonest George Monbiot for making groundbreaking investigation.

  • Jackthesmilingblack

    “Have you ever been to Hanoi?”
    “No, but I flew over it many times during the war.”

    The old ones are the best.

  • I must admit to being very pleased to see so much climate questioning in newspapers lately. I suppose I wouldn’t be so pleased if I really thought that old media was dead.

  • Worse, these bizarre individuals often insist on tramping about in the open air, talking to people who are, if anything, even more bewildered by the story in question than they are themselves.

    *Scratches head* Actually, that’s what most critics of today’s “dinosaur media” wishes journalists would do more of. Instead, too many of the current crop of “professional” journalists seem content to regurgitate press releases and conventional wisdom, and to go after safe, comfortable targets that don’t take them too far from the bar or the comfortable hotel room. (Note I said “too many” not “all.” I point that out lest I be accused of making sweeping generalizations.)

    Anyway, I don’t know any critic of the professional news media who wants them to do less on the ground reporting. Most news people have finally figured out this newfangled internet thing, barring a couple of holdouts here and there, but really, I don’t care how a news story gets written — on an iPad or a pad of paper, it doesn’t matter. I just care if the reporter forgets to be a professional and starts interjecting his own opinions into the piece, which happens more and more these days, as if people were losing the ability to distinguish between their own possibly biased viewpoints and objective fact. I grew up with the idea that there were reporters who wrote news stories and there were journalists who wrote opinion columns, and that they were two different sections of the newspaper that you could clearly recognize. These days it’s not so easy; that’s the real problem. It has nothing to do with who knows how to use the internet better.

  • Andrea:

    I grew up with the idea that there were reporters who wrote news stories and there were journalists who wrote opinion columns, and that they were two different sections of the newspaper that you could clearly recognize.

    But can you really be sure that the reporters didn’t inject their personal agendas into their reports? After all, back then there were no alternative media to check them. At least these days we more or less know that we can’t really trust any of them.