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September 25, 2006

Michael Kinsley: Do Newspapers Have A Future?

Short answer: No.

Longer answer: Almost certainly not.

Contains the usual sniping at blogs by a guild member quite unhappy to see actual competiton by those who haven't "paid their dues:"

Meanwhile, there is the blog terror: people are getting their understanding of the world from random lunatics riffing in their underwear, rather than professional journalists with standards and passports.

So are we doomed to get our news from some acned 12-year-old in his parents' basement recycling rumors from the Internet echo chamber?

...

You can sit down at your laptop and enjoy that same newspaper or any other newspaper in the world. Or you can skip the newspapers and go to some site that makes the news more entertaining or politically simpatico. And where do these wannabes get most of their information? From newspapers, of course. But that is mere irony. It doesn't pay the cost of a Baghdad bureau.

...

And later? The "me to you" model of news gathering--a professional reporter, attuned to the fine distinctions between "off the record" and "deep background," prizing factual accuracy in the narrowest sense--may well give way to some kind of "us to us" communitarian arrangement of the sort that thrives on the Internet. But there is room between the New York Times and myleftarmpit.com for new forms that liberate journalism from its encrusted conceits while preserving its standards, like accuracy.

This is doubly ironic. For one thing, Michael Kinsely has overseen one major journalistic scandal (Ruth Shallitt), failed to correct problems at TNR which then led to the another (Steven Glass), and had a major embarrassment at Slate with the "monkeyfishing" fakery.

For another thing, Michael Kinsely was a major, and very influential, user of the high-attitude, heavy-sarcasm school of opinionating which is now dominant on the Internet.

It's okay for him to lard up his pieces with snark and sarcasm and obvious bias but not, apparently, for we upstarts to emulate him. Because, you know, he want to J-School.

This "accuracy" charge is absurd, because, as Kinsely notes, blog "reporting" comes 99% straight from the mainstream media. There are few original blog reportage pieces, and the few that exist have been, largely, proven true -- and explosively true, to boot. (Rathergate, Reutersgate, and now, less importantly, Memorial-Gate.)

Where is this lack of accuracy they're always on about, precisely? An opinion isn't really "true" or "false," "accurate" or "inaccurate" in the common senses of those words. It's just an opinion. And if Kinsley wants to argue that some opinions are less accurate than others, because they selectively use facts and don't present conflicting evidence -- well, let me refer him to the New York Times editorial staff, which maintains, for example, that Paul Krugman is permitted to use misleading data to justify his claims because, after all, it's just an opinion piece.

So Paul Krugman and the New York Times can present one-sided and sometimes deceptive and occasionally flat-out mendacious "facts" in their opinion pieces, but bloggers are to be held to a higher standard than the New York Times?

In one last bit of irony, Kinsley, as shown above, poo-poohs blogs for presenting nakedly partisan or ideological interpretations of the news, our biases worn on our sleeves, with no pretense of presenting the mythical mainstream media "objectivity" and "fairness." So what does he envision the ssalvation of the media to be? How does he think the media will begin becoming relevant again?

By emulating the facts-mixed-with-opinion naked partisanship of blogs:

But it might resemble the better British papers today (such as the one I work for, the Guardian). The Brits have never bought into the American separation of reporting and opinion. They assume that an intelligent person, paid to learn about some subject, will naturally develop views about it. And they consider it more truthful to express those views than to suppress them in the name of objectivity.

Michael Kinsely jumped the shark a long time ago. He doesn't even make sense anymore. He's so overcome with partisan bias and, in this case, guild protectivism, he simply contradicts himself within the space of mere paragraphs.

The media is better than blogs because it presents "accurate" and "objective" reportage, but that "accuracy' and "objectivity" should be jettisoned to make the media more resemble blogs.

Okay, Mike.

Remember when people actually read and respected you?

Ah, memories.


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posted by Ace at 02:22 PM

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