November 11, 2005

Them no ‘counts…

Charles Cooper wonders about the effects of blogs on newspapers:

But there’s a shift under way in which authority is being transferred to authors with no accountability other than to themselves and their readership. Does it matter? Should it matter? The mainstream media can look down its nose at the blogosphere, but the numbers tell a different story. More people than ever are reading blogs because of shared affinities and it’s coming at the expense of print newspapers.

I’m wondering about journalistic sentiments such as: “authors with no accountability” and “because of shared affinities.” This seems a bit too simplistic. 1) It forgets history, i.e. the vaunted place in journalism history of pamphleteers writing during the revolutionary period. One could make similar claims about Franklin and Paine (but no journalist ever does). 2) It doesn’t reflect experience. Many of Rhetorica’s readers, for example, disagree with me politically (and academically). Yet they keep reading and commenting. Why? Because they, and the ones with “shared affinities,” apparently are able to use their independent judgment to discover something of value here. I’ll bet my experience is not unique.

To make these canards more than simple gasps of journalistic arrogance, I suggest that what we need is a dose discipline common to all who practice journalism for a paycheck. Combine that discipline with an enlightened view of news competition, glocalism, and the rhetoric of conversation and you just might have the formula to “save” newspapers (delivered by any means).

Cooper is right: The wake-up call has arrived. [Actually, the alarm clock has been going off for too long. Someone, please, smack that thing and wake up.]

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