Friday, January 23, 2009

The Impending Death of Newspapers

Lately I have been obsessed with the impending death of newspapers. While I don't sit down every day and read a newspaper, I just can't imagine life without the New York Times (here is a scenario by which the NYT goes bankrupt by May, from the Atlantic Monthly). And I have some nostalgia for newsprint, but really, not that much. So, here are a few thoughts, in random order, annotated with some of the sources that have led to these thoughts:

What is dying? The traditional print edition of the traditional hometown newspaper is dying. I think making it this specific is important, because news itself is not dying, just the version of it that many of us had become comfortable with. Interesting thing about it, is that newspapers knew this a long long time ago:
"The industry has understood from the advent of AM radio in the 1920s that technology would eventually be its undoing and has always behaved accordingly."
From Jack Schafer's great piece at Slate "How newspapers tried to invent the web and failed"
Here is also a cute little piece on the evening news about the newspaper delivered over the phone to a personal computer (my favorite bit is how the guy using this service is given a caption of "personal computer owner")

So, newspapers have known for along time that they were going to be done in by technology, and mostly their efforts have been to stall the technology, not to adopt it and change their business model. One interesting point I hadn't totally realized until I read this piece in Philadelphia Magazine was that while the editorial content obviously has more competitors now that everyone has a blog, the reason for the financial failure in newspapers is almost purely from the lack of advertising (although I suppose that does eventually come back to the fact that the eyes are going elsewhere, so advertisers follow the eyes). So, really, Craigslist is mostly to blame for taking down all these papers. Funny that craigslist founder Craig Newmark has made zero dollars on all his fame. But anyways...

Given that something is dying, what is going to stay? Will the freedom of the press become just as irrelevant as our freedom to choose our electric company? Will there be no more press? I think what will mostly happen is that newspapers will stop entirely doing those things that they have been not doing well for years now. (This point is made in more depth by Clay Shirky on newspapers and online media) Personal ads, reporting on things that others do much better, such as sports scores, etc. What I hope, and I think this is reasonable, is that they continue to do well those things that they have done well, which is to provide a good forum for the columnists and thinkers we have come to know and love (any look at the most emailed at NYTimes usually includes Krugman, Brooks, etc), deep investigative reporting, and organizing the mountains of information available these days to anyone with an internet connection.
Why newspapers should be endowed nonprofits, from the NYT

Regarding the first: Now that you can get an email digest of someone' s columns, or have an RSS feed in your personal page (iGoogle, or yahoo, or whatever), the brand of the person is getting to be bigger than the paper. Of course this did happen in the past, but not as much as now. There is no more paging to your favorite columnist, you just go straight to that, skipping the masthead. As times go on, I wonder if people will more and more simply subscribe to their favorites, and not bother with the traditional front page at all, until a big event happens. I find myself doing this now. I don't think this is a terrible thing, that the name recognition of the writer means more than the paper. Check out Christopher Hitchens on being waterboarded (I forget where from). Or Roger Ebert, a brand unto himself, and worth it. Great film critic, but also cultural commentator. The value of the written word persists. The Huffington Post recognizes this, and gives the byline a much much bigger font size than traditional media.

Regarding the second and third: Deep investigative reporting is not what it used to be. Cultivating sources and getting to stories that are neglected and not told elsewhere will still happen, but not with nearly the kind of frequency as it has in the past decades. What will increase, I believe, will be more opportunities to use a sophistication with data and multiple sources of information and consolidate it into one easy place. The NYTimes is finally discovering that there are more ways to add value than the text narrative, and they are expanding their definition of journalism to meet their readers.
Some good examples of this:
NYTimes introduces Congress API and an interactive visualization of all of the parking tickets for one year in NY. Also recently announced: The Best Sellers API, where programmers can take the data (and there is a lot of great data) of the NYTimes best seller list, and put it to good use, like a book suggestion program. There was a profile in New York Magazine of the new New York Times journalist/programmers. The NYT is now having a big fun "hack day" for programmers to come up with cool ways to use all the data that they have (they adopt an Open Source attitude, towards this at least).
The Boston Globe has filled a photography niche with its The Big Picture, a really nice website of news photos (check out their Earth from Above)

Part of the problem that newspapers have is that the public's trust in them has both eroded and splintered. Maybe people didn't entirely trust Hearst newspapers, but they were pretty much the only game in town, so they got all the trust that people could give to a media institution. Now you can instantly cross check the NYT, Wash Post, Daily Kos, HuffPo and Daily Kos. There are so many little niches that the one behemoth that provides everything just doesn't work anymore. This trend is accentuated by the ease of aggregation of content from many sources. It is actually very easy to pull together your own "newspaper" of sorts, with sports done by ESPN, politics by 538, everything else by Jon Stewart and Colbert . Of course what happens is a Big Sort, but for media, such that I could go a week without reading anything I disagreed with, which I don't think is actually a very good thing, convenient in the short run, but I think a long term bad. The other thing in addition to aggregation is the value of a trustworthy filter for the mountains of news and information that come from everywhere.
Some filters that I have found useful are: - quick links to interesting stuff, videos, news stories, etc. Has a nerdy flavor (some video games and comics and computer stuff) - Also very nerdy, but every third or fourth link is something fascinating
that you wouldn't have found anywhere else
Give me something to read, an aggregator that gives you a few things to read, based on what other people (who use a service called instapaper) have bookmarked. This is really interesting because it basically spits out at you an interesting or noteworthy piece from anywhere, but mostly The Atlantic, The New Republic, WSJ, NYT, WaPo, NYRB, New Yorker, the Guardian, The Chronicle of Higher Ed, which no one has the time to read all of them. The toread tag on delicious works similarly
There is also: the most emailed news, a site that aggregates the most emailed news stories across newspapers

I should just stop, and of course say that just about nothing from this post is original, but that I thought many of my readers (all 5 of you) might find some of this interesting given that some of it has come from sources that might not pass your radar screen. It is, after all, Cedar's digest.


Pat Kobor said...

Cedar, I didn't realize you had a blog but I'm bookmarking it. You always have something interesting to share. My dad was a newspaperman and I've been worrying about this issue for a while too. It feels to me, ironically, as if little local news outlets are hanging in pretty well, but the national newspapers are more vulnerable because they try to do a little of everything, including things other outlets do as well and cheaper. Investigative reporting, and particularly foreign bureaus, are expensive and it would be harder to replace them. Lots of people (bloggers etc.) can distribute the news cheaply; it's the original reporting by a trusted entity that is much much harder to outsource. I'm eager to read the links you posted.

Cedar said...

I agree, Pat. It is good to see that the small newspapers (and in fact, the free ones like the City Paper) are doing ok. One interesting idea I saw recently was someone who was going to print out blog entries (The Printed Blog), sell lots of ads, and put those out as a free newspaper. Interesting idea, printing out the web, I bet it works. I hope that non-profit philanthropies takes up some of the investigative reporting slack (as it already has) but I can't imagine it will do nearly as much as currently exists.

brian said...

Hey Cedar -- I've actually been banging on about this particular subject for quite some time. Here's part of an email exchange I recently had about this very issue.

I also recommend a blog called the Newsosaur, a guy who used to work in the newspaper business and closely tracks the slowing business.

He’s got an interesting take on this newspaper endowment idea.

This blog model that's taken hold has basically replaced actual reporting and investigation with shrill discussion of publicly available information. Most newspapers seem to be responding to this with lots of multimedia bells and whistles instead of actual pound-the-pavement reporting. People are getting more and more news from bloggers that have no original content (no matter what they'd like you to believe) while a notoriously corrupt state like New Jersey came pretty close to not having a serious newspaper and the San Diego Union-Tribune's Washington bureau that won a Pulitzer for busting Duke Cunningham's military contract shenanigans is now closed for lack of money.

It’s also worth clarifying some misconceptions about news agencies like Reuters – namely that its not a news agency, it's a data services company with a news division attached. Most of our readers, I'm convinced, are the web folks like mom and dad who pick up the news through papers or the internet. Reuters doesn't give a crap about these folks, it wants the clients who PAY for the service. These are Wall Street types. Investment houses. Aluminum traders. Emerging Market Bond brokers. Etc Etc. So for me this whole multi media push is a buncha hooey, traders don't care about pictures and multimedia packages, they want a Reuters terminal so it can make them money. The advantage is Reuters actually has a business model -- sell a bunch of data like aluminum prices, stock analyses, emerging market bond spreads, tack on the news, and let all the freeloaders read for free because who gives a crap, they don't have the kind of money that interests us. With Wall Street in a wreck and the world starting to wonder (finally) about the social utility of having traders glued to screens waiting for Chavez to do say something dumb that might affect securities prices, that business model for me is becoming a questionable one.

But I'd say it whips the boolyhoo out of the MSM model -- hire smart reporters, get capable editors, produce quality content, And Then: give it away ... Not making any money off that, huh? That's a head scratcher indeed.

So they're trying to evolve. Putting up blogs. The eternal multimedia push. The hyperlocal content. All good initiatives in their own right, but not ones that address the problem they're trying to deal with -- there's no money in it. It's turned into a race to the bottom. As for blogs doing their own reporting, I'm less optimistic about that as well. What I've learned in the switch from feature writing to daily coverage is that you can only really do serious investigations if you do the daily grind. You have to sit through the boring stories, file the day to day updates that don't win you any prizes, so you can cultivate the sources and learn your way around the issues. The problem is that you just can't slap a production meter on that sort of work, it takes time and patience and chasing a lot of leads that go nowhere. If you get some media business bureaucrat who comes in to demand you write X many stories or words per day you've pulled the carpet out from any serious reporting. Or, even smarter, you save money by firing all your veteran reporters who know their way around those beats -- that ensures you've got a bunch of low-paid recent college grads who will never have the same clout.

So I know I'm sounding like Dr. Doom here, and I do hold out that things will get better, but probably not before they get worse. One of my favorite anecdotes in this whole mess is the fact that Bloomberg doesn't cover Iraq. They do pickups of other people's reporting, like Reuters. They've made a business decision -- probably a good one -- that the cost of translators, flak jackets and insurance policies makes it too expensive when they can just grab other people's copy. Traders don't care, they still get the news on their Bloomberg terminal, which is where they want it. So here's my question -- what happens when Reuters pulls out of Iraq for the same reason? Apparently the company CEO recently told a conference call that Reuters wouldn't be Reuters if we weren't in Iraq. That's good to know. The thing is Reuters is already not Reuters -- it's ThomsonReuters. We've now got more beancounting shareholders to respond to, many of whom have been wondering for years what we're doing in the news business to begin with.

I guess I think the system doesn't start to work until people, everyday general news readers, realize that free news is eventually going to be worth what we pay for it. Then maybe someone will try to fix this problem by working out what will probably be a fairly simple pay-per-view system. That will mean a reinvention of blogging, which by all accounts I think will be a good thing. I was hoping as I transitioned out of journalism to figure out a way to tackle this problem. I've abandoned the idea of doing that at Reuters, the company is just to fond of its sell-screens-to-traders model because Wall Street will never run out of money, which is just not the wave of the future on this one.

Cedar said...

Hey Brian!
Excellent, thanks for contributing, I had hoped I might have a few of my journalist friends chime in. Yeah, the Reuters situation is interesting, although I don't think all that unique. The Washington Post, for example, is not in as serious financial trouble because it has Kaplan (and US News and World Report) so if you ask me, they are funding whatever good they do in the public news sector by having an awful influence on higher education. Kind of like a hospital staying afloat by selling cigarettes in the lobby.... Same with a lot of TV news, right? Mostly losing money and carried by the big hits.
But your point about the role of blogs and the "provide quality content" model of the MSM actually got me thinking more about why I think that blogs get sold short.
I think that what good journalism really provides is coherence, not content. Most of the content of news is public knowledge, save for a few Deep Throats (do we call him Mark Felt now?) and other whistleblowers. Hugo Chavez puts out plenty of content, what we need journalism for is sort the good from the bad, and give us the real story: a coherent story. So, getting to bloggers, most bloggers just link to other real journalism (myself included). But there are a few blogs out there that provide coherence (I would contend the real value of journalism) in a different way; with a group. There are a few blogger communities (mostly nerd, now, like Boing Boing, or Lifehacker, or Metafilter, but this will change) which are great and knowledgeable communities and have managed to effectively harness the collective knowledge of their community. Reading a decent post, with a number of great comments is just priceless. It is not as much the content as the organization of 100 people's thoughts, with the ten most interesting and expert people on that particular topic getting to the top. There are a number of metafilter topics that are just incredible for this.
So, if blogs could find out a way (and MSM could do this too) to leverage the collective intelligence of their readers, and sort comments by usefulness, they would absolutely kick butt.
For example, on education, the national press has absolutely failed, whereas I think a set of local figures, perhaps conversing on a local education blog, might be really useful to read, if the comments were edited.

So, I think we will all think of bloggers (and the NYT website, for that matter) when they learn that they can forsake the mullet approach to blogs and comments (business in the front (main page) and party in the back (comments, blogs)) and really edit the blogs.
A few examples of this are:
The freakonomics blog,
Edward Tufte's blog on information design
metafilter (a few good posts)

Sorry for the super long comment, but I love talking about this stuff... and Liam and Caleb and Amelie don't seem all that interested...

brian said...

Hey -- Glad to be bouncing this stuff back and forth, it's a rant I've unleashed on so many people, most of the time to a chorus of yawns and rolling eyeballs. I agree with you about the Washington Post, they've cross-subsidizing one business with another. The textbook business is indeed a miserable one (but that's a separate rant that I'll save for a separate post).

I totally agree that blogs can be useful in that they create communities of informed users. Josh Marshall at Talking Points Memo has done an excellent job of this by building up a cadre of well-informed mid-level civil servants that can speak authoritatively on things like U.S. Middle East policy, or give details of New Orleans levies in the wake of Hurricane Katrina. This is where I think bloggers have the most impact -- gathering information for wonky interested readers who want more details than the press is giving.

But the truth is I stopped reading TPM about three years ago and have been railing about them since. TPM was my first introduction into blogging, I loved it because Josh Marshall could read all the same stories I did and somehow come up with a million things that I missed and link them to a ton of stuff I never would have thought of. But over time TPM's function of gathering wonky readers got overtaken by the desire to be a competitor to the MSM. They opened up this "TPM Muckracker" division, which I find exceedingly grating -- mostly because it's neither mucking nor raking but instead simply rewriting other people's news. Back to the problem of shrill discussion of publicly available information. I see this sort of thing happening to the "Big Ten" bloggers as they realize they need to keep bringing more and more readers to their site. They start to replicate the things they complain about in the MSM, which is mostly that content gets tailored to bring more and more people in. They lose track of what they're really trying to do. I still believe in their original goals of bringing together people interested in the same subject. But this requires admitting that you can't be as influential as the MSM, because you're targeting a well-informed audience. You want to boost your hits, you have to dumb it down.

Reporters and blogger don't always get along, and I'll admit my career has not left me unbiased. One of the things that bloggers did is take away reporters' monopoly on analyzing information, a monopoly that existed only when reporters were the only ones with ready access to all the data points. Newspaper writers doing "trend stories" and analyses are well aware now that they're competing against other people who can do this quicker and often better than them -- and this in the end is better for the reader. There is a huge amount of blogging that piggybacks of reporters work -- I don't take this sort of thing personally, in fact I generally appreciate the rare opportunities that my stories get picked up on blogs.

But having so much information all over the place has made us less insistent about what information we do get. Our knowledge of CIA rendition flights or illegal Bush administration wire tapping are largely the product of MSM investigations. We all know that Washington is filled with "professional sources" who spend their days whispering partisan hack in reporters ears in efforts to pass it off as news. But investigative reporting is not simply a matter of a reporter stumbling across a furtive Deep Throat passing them information. How much more would we have known about Bush if the press was less distracted by squabbling over what we already knew? How much investigation do we really want? When does it urn into gotcha Washington politics about Geithner not filing taxes? These are important questions that don't get answered if we get lulled into thinking it can all come from the bloggers.

Blogs that recognize their role do great things. I think local blogging and neighborhood blogging is a great thing, people want to read about what's going on around them and they appreciate someone who takes the time to collect the information. I think that's the same for any given issue. There are great blogs about Venezuela that give context about what's going on here (with their respective political biases of course). I know what you mean by providing context rather than content, when I want to learn about a new issues or understand some problem like Darfur or Global Warming those are the first places I look.

Anyway, you thought your post was long! I can keep banging on about this one for weeks, believe it or not.


Cedar said...

Me too. Great point on how blogs grow into exactly what they condemn. It is almost as if at these blogs you need a strong conscience to resist growth, and a confidence to keep filling the appropriate niche. Agreed that there is more to investigative reporting than stumbling across a Deep Throat. It strikes me that for those situations, the reporter being trusted in advance is important for those big whistleblowers. Presumably those big stories that you mention that the MSM broke (wiretapping, etc) wouldn't have been possible without someone whispering in their ear at some point. I tend to think in those situations, the whistleblower doesn't decide not to blow based on what forum it is going to get. If Deep Throat doesn't have Woodward and Bernstein, he goes to TPM, or Drudge, right? Same with the wiretapping, if there is no Seattle PI, then wouldn't a whistleblower go somewhere else, like an anonymous post at a blog? Much smaller scale, but this is an interesting example: A former employee of Cash4Gold, a late night cable scam promising money for melting down gold jewelry
explains the scam in a post on some obscure blog, and the revelation that the company tried to bribe someone who had a high google rank for their name (with a complaint) which I learned of from waxy links.
Also, I imagine you have seen the letters in today's NYT regarding the endowment piece I linked to
interesting critiques of the endowment idea.
I am curious to see how this all turns out, and while I think that the original reporting the the newspapers provide does provide value, I am not sure it is the bedrock that they purport it to be. If it gets pulled out, is it the bottom card in our fragile information ecosystem, or is it a role that will be taken over by others in a different way?

brian said...

I think in journalism, like in a lot of other careers, there's always tension over who's allowed to call themselves a member of "the club." There's a lot of things that journalists do that anyone else could do equally well, and in many cases better. This creates the need to give people proverbial union cards that designates them as bona fides. I thought this observation was well-made in Michael Lewis's Moneyball, about the Oakland A's trying to reinvent baseball coaching. Their biggest adversary, it turned out, were the columnists and sports writers who considered themselves the top authority on who should be drafted in what order, and ended up being one of the reasons Billy Bean didn't want to go coach in Boston. These are folks who've spent their whole lives cultivating a specific professed wisdom, and react angrily to the idea that someone else might do it differently. There's quite a bit of that happening in journalism, and I'm happy to see bloggers stripping away the MSMs claim to moral superiority.

I think most media-on-media these days is about lamenting the newsroom cuts and the decline of print journalism as a profession, which I think is about as useful as crying over the loss of jobs in typesetting. Those cuts are happening in large part because there have been too many people covering the same thing, we just needed the internet to make that clear. Ok, maybe three of four newspapers need to be at a White House press conference, but the nation does not need 65 reporters there. Are there bloggers out there stealing the thunder of some specialized industry reporter who used to cover Congress? Probably -- and I think that's a good thing.

I don't think that's the same as saying reporters can be replaced by anyone that can write well. I also don't think you can understand investigative reporting as simply a whistleblower passing the goods to a reporter. Watergate is in fact a good example of this. Woodward's agreement with FeltThroat was that none of Woodward's stories would ever be sourced to him, not even anonymously. This meant Woodward could only use information he got from DT as guidance or to confirm something he had gotten elsewhere. This meant he and Berstein had to bust their asses pounding the pavement with shoe-leather reporting. Woodward showed up at people's homes unannounced at 11 p.m., he dragged information out of people who said "don't ever come back, you're going to get me fired," he tracked down the names of grand jury members and contacted them (illegally it turned out) in the search of what was going on in the proceedings. A far cry from TPM's armchair warrior "muckraking."

And investigations also frequent don't involve any Deep Throats at all, but rather a collection of information that was always available but people didn't know they were looking for it. The Times had an amazing investigation several years about an Alabama pipe maker whose hideous labor practices allowed workers to be decapitated and limbs to be severed -- stuff you wouldn't expect to hear about in Southeast Asian sweatshops -- all in the name of making cheaper pipes. Or Dana Priest's reporting on the shoddy state of Walter Reed medical center -- this was not a case of Rumsfeld or Gates whispering something to her. She took information that was probably fairly well known to a small group of people and carefully documented it. Diddo for her stories of illegal immigrants dying in detention centers for causes as simple as lack of insulin shots for diabetics. My own limited experience with investigative reporting has shown you often have to piece information together from lots of people who are trying to figure the whole thing out themselves and might have different pieces of the puzzle.

There's nothing to stop a blogger from doing this sort of work. If they can and do, more power to them. I just think the blogging culture has convinced people that they can Google their way through an investigation, which I don't think is the right approach. It also requires people to be posting fast and furious, linking to tons of places, getting their hits up, suffering the same malaise of the MSM they're trying to replace.

If the incentive structure were different, there could be a lot more original work done by bloggers, or someone in a similar position. If you took an industry expert with a knack for chatting up colleagues and co-workers who could figure out, for example, what the hell is REALLY happening with all this TARP money, it could make for some great reporting that the MSM isn't doing.

Venezuela is an interesting example of this, because this place is an investigative reporters dream and there's simply none of it happening. My own conclusion is that it's because reporters spend too much time on a treadmill cranking 60 centimeters of copy every day and aren't given the resources or the time to go after interesting things that could make Chavez look bad. Instead, they fill pages with crappy analyses and interviews with "experts" who whine and cry about how Chavez is an asshole or dictator or he's really ugly. Like media in many other places, they know what their goal is they're just trying to get there the wrong way.

Man, I can't believe I wrote this much again!

Sam said...

First of all, Cedar, I just want to say that you'll never be a nerd to me, hard as you try. You'll always be the kid from the DC public schools with a sick cross-over and who did flips when he threw the ball in in soccer.

I don't have much to add, but I want to compliment you on your post and the ensuing discussion. Your post covered newspapers' demise from a bunch of angles, and Brian has focused the conversation on the aspect that most concerns me--the death of investigative journalism. And it's been dying for awhile, from what I can see.

Brian says a point that I was thinking here:

"I also don't think you can understand investigative reporting as simply a whistleblower passing the goods to a reporter."

Anyway, I have nothing more but emphasis to add, so I'm out.

brian said...

Hey Sam -- Thanks for chiming in here, I thought only Cedar and I were boring (and yes, nerdy) enough to get wrapped up in this sort of thing.

I just thought I'd point out two excellent pieces of journalism that I happened to stumble across today. I think the first is an excellent example of investigative reporting, I find it all the more impressive because it relates to the rather obscure and forgotten war in Chechnya. The investigation itself does appear to have influenced the assassination of the story's proverbial protagonist, probably an ethical quandary not lost on this particular reporter. I would cite this as the sort of thing that, for whatever reason, we're seeing less of these days and need to see more of.

Today's Times also has a story about a town called Braddock, PA with excellent in-depth reporting about how a burned-out town is trying to save itself. The saga and personalities themselves are very compelling, which of course helps. I think this sort of thing could be done by any smart and competent group of reporters/producers, though they may run into the age-old problem of how get it out there in such a way that folks like me will stumble across it.

Anyway, just food for thought.

Joe Riener said...

I've worked the past two years with smart high school students on the school newspaper. I can say that, whatever form it takes, journalistic skills are wonderful to develop. My students have learned how to ask real questions to people in authority; they've had to figure out what would be of interest to their readers; they've struggled to be accurate, clear, focused in their prose; they've felt the power of the word.

The editors had an opportunity recently to interview the school system's chancellor. They were crestfallen when they weren't able to nail her, get her to admit things that no other reporters had been able to do. But what an important experience for these two students, to see how tough it is, to get it right. Maybe at some point we'll publish online, rather than in our monthly 8-page newsprint. But we can sell enough ads to cover the cost of printing, and it's nice to have the paper given out, in a couple hours, with everyone reading it at the same time. Either way, though, online or print, it's no biggie.

On the larger issues of the Future, I do feel sanguine that there will always be ways to have the woodwards and bernsteins ask their questions. Getting the bastards will persist in being fun. I even think that the town council, or the village police chief, will have someone ask questions to make them squirm, and write about it. Maybe all that will happen is that we'll go from newspapers to bloggers. That ain't bad.

Joe Riener
Washington, DC

Cedar said...

This is awesome. I'm sure my next post won't get so much interest, but one last quick thought.
I agree that good deep investigative journalism is not just whispering in the ear, but the question to me is, to paraphrase Brian's, is how much of it actually gets done right now, and how much of it could and would be made up by the nonprofit model. Dana Priest's work, the Chechnya stuff, corporate malfeisance, how much of that stuff actually gets done now by major newspapers, compared to the Style sections, sports, etc. What exactly do we need to do more of that, knowing that it is going to have to happen outside of newsrooms? Anyways, this has been fun. I'll come back to it, as the year goes by, and newspapers start failing left and right.
Also, I will say, I do feel a little angry at newspapers recently, with Bush with Iraq and with the economy, which were crises that the newspapers could have weighed in on more forcefully earlier. Bush treated them like a special interest group, and in response, they tried to get back into his favor, instead of which they should have been telling us how bad he was before everyone else (who weren't paying attention closely) found out. The information was there, and they could have done a much much better job. It seems like they were too busy trying to keep their jobs to actually do their jobs. But I guess that is what people do, can't be too mad.

Sam said...

Agreed, Cedar. So, currently newspapers do investigative reporting in a way that bloggers can't. But they also don't do nearly as much as they could, and if they did, we might have avoided a second Bush presidency.

I agree that the answer is not to get angry at the individuals at the papers. And I think your point implies that the structure of the media is in need of a shake up, and hopefully in so doing space will be created for investigative journalists who 1)can't be flattered or bought into submission, 2) have the resources to do the work, and 3) have access to an audience. I hope we're getting closer to that place, and perhaps the answer may lie somewhere in between our current papers and the blogosphere.