Mary Branscombe (marypcb) wrote,
Mary Branscombe
marypcb

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What's the point of journalism?

I read an online piece of journalism today, talking about what the Apple keynote might announce. There are always rumours about the keynotes, from analysts and fans and bloggers; Apple dislikes them and lawsuits demanding sources both lend credence and damage free-wheeling creative opinions. That may be one reason the piece I read was strong on fluff and short on facts. Another might be that online-only sites are geared to speedy response rather than the luxury of an print editing process that makes sure (on a good title) that writing has quality: a structure, a direction, a beginning, middle and end - something to say. Blogging is like email; one writes because something impels one to share a viewpoint, but without the discipline of fitting a particular printed slot, or fitting in with an editorial style, or getting an editor to approve. News and journalism should be different, I think; it needs the multiplicity of contributions combined and combed through. Not so much an editorial stance, but an editor that guarantees a minimum level of accuracy and quality. (And ethics).

The fallout from Rathergate, with Mary Mapes fired and other journalists and producers asked to resign, concerns me: the report says that they didn't take sufficient care but it doesn't say the documents that claim George Bush took advantage of favour in his military service are fakes (although the Internet thinks they are fake while the secretary who would have typed them calls them 'fake but accurate'). Mary Mapes was the first producer to break the Abu Ghraib pictures, which strikes me as a good track record. Is the report more about politics than ethics?

We need more news sources; but we need them to be better, not just more democratic. I'm a journalist, so of course I think that training is important, that journalism is a profession and not a hobby. And despite the poor management that can so easily become endemic under the pressure of deadlines, I still think traditional media outlets like magazines and newspapers and TV channels are good places to pass on the skills and standards that make for good journalism.

So I find this Flash presentation by Robin Sloan and Matt Thompson (found on Time Porter's First Draft) - about the future of journalism in a world where the papers have gone back to print - thought provoking. And the idea of seeing news filtered by what your friends are looking at and talking about? That's one of the things RealContacts' Eurekster is moving towards. Using my social network as a source of expertise and focus seems much more useful than documenting it for the pleasure of making a list. But I still don't see that as replacing professional reporting - however little of that it might feel like we see today.
Tags: geek, links, writing
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