In one of the most ridiculous articles I think I've seen among the old media alarmists, NPR Ombudsman Jeffrey Dvorkin rants about how blogs threaten journalism:
The increasing sway of such thinking is borne out in a recent Magid survey for the Carnegie Corporation called "Abandoning the News" (See Web Resources, at right).
It's a fascinating look at how -- and why -- Americans' news habits are changing, especially among the Internet-savvy users between 18 and 34.
The survey confirms (again) what many people in the news business suspect: that younger people find the Internet a more useful place, and a more nimble way to get their news, compared to television, radio and (especially) newspapers. At the same time, fewer Americans of all ages, but especially young Americans, feel the need to keep up with the news at all.
Those who rely on the Internet as their primary source of news keeps growing compared to other media sources. This group also considers Jon Stewart, host of The Daily Show on Comedy Central, to be the most trusted television anchor.
Maybe because with Jon we know when he's making shit up.
The worlds of the MSM ("mainstream media") and the blogosphere are making cautious contact. Slowly, bloggers are finding their way into the MSM. As the Carnegie Report shows, NBC hired bloggers to comment on their election night coverage last year. ABC News and CNN are actively pursuing the blog-prone audience. Even one of NPR's newest programs, Day To Day is collaborating with Slate.com, the online magazine. On NPR, these online journalists contribute their editorial perspectives and edgy insights -- with gasps of dismay from some listeners and occasionally from the ombudsman too.
Gasps of dismay? You'll hear them from me whenever I watch a MSM news report. And I can tell you, it ain't some blogger's fault!
The appeal of the blogs? Humor seems to be the biggest attraction. Ironic detachment from the news, an ability to deflate egos and refreshing, undisguised opinion are also valued. All are antithetical to most news organizations.
American newspapers traditionally and scrupulously segregate fact-based reporting from opinion by designating pages for each. Radio and television try to ensure that opinion remains secondary to reporting. Conclusions should be drawn warily. Bloggers tend not to care if they, and their readers conflate opinion and fact. It's part of the appeal of the blogosphere.
As news organizations fight to regain their battered credibility and vanishing audiences, the blogs and the number of people who read them continue to grow. The blogs entertain, they provoke, and they are not constrained by journalistic standards of truth telling.
This is a challenge and a danger for journalism.
Maybe the real challenge for journalism is to "regain their battered credibility and vanishing audiences" in the first place, without trying to point fingers at some blogger boogieman. Maybe? Just maybe?
As an authority on the matter, Dvorkin, an old white man of old media cites a slightly younger white man of old media, Ken Rudin, who admittedly does have a blog, yes -- but it's been "sanctioned" by NPR. Ah, well, that's a relief! Rudin whines:
Finally, congratulations to the dozens and dozens of free thinkers who wrote in, often using the exact same language, regarding a piece by NPR's David Welna on the oncoming collision in the Senate over the right of the minority to filibuster judicial nominations. David mentioned that Senate Democrats are calling Republican leader Bill Frist's threat to change the rules and curtail the filibuster the "nuclear option." Some Web logs took NPR to task by saying we were parroting the GOP line by attributing the quote to the Dems, when after all it was Sen. Trent Lott (R-MS) who coined the phrase. All David was doing was saying that Democrats were calling it the "nuclear option," which they were. Welna didn't say that the Dems originated the term. He didn't get into its etymology. But suddenly, according to a bunch of blogs, NPR was "bamboozled," joining the vast right-wing conspiracy in attributing the phrase to the Democrats. And that was followed by dozens of e-mails, all from people "outraged" that NPR would stoop to such tactics. The least they could do is change some of the wording and make it look like they actually did some independent thinking before pressing the "send" button.
Funny how sensitive the old media suddenly get when it's the progressive mainstream calling them on their bullshit. What's really quite striking, though, is Rudin's superstitious belief that all us bloggers are logging in at some online "talking points central" to get our marching orders.
Here's a little reality for you, Messrs. Dvorkin and Rudin: "the bloggers" are the citizens. We are your audience (or maybe not). You can go ahead and blame us for all your problems with credibility and corporate kowtowing, but you're just blaming your own audience. Why don't you look to yourselves to find the causes of your demise? Better yet, why don't you open your goddam eyes and learn something? You're drifting off into being a newsletter for the corporatocracy, not a news organization for the public. You are "public radio," yes? It's hard to tell. You've been the shameful mouthpiece of government propaganda in the run-up to the war. You seem to believe that there are left-wing facts and right-wing facts, and therefore treat lies as if they were legitimate positions.
And you pretend you're not doing it! Maybe you don't even realize it.
Here's a clue for you crusty old guys lost in 1963: Blogs are not a new TV channel. Blogs are not a new newspaper. Blogs are more like the telephone than the radio. (Of course, people like you cried in alarm over those inventions, too.)
Why don't you get off your high horse and fat arses and fix your own problems without trying to fob the blame off on the people? It's bad form, really -- something that NPR is getting better at lately, it seems.
Remember what Murrow said: "The medium is the message." Well, here's the message that is the blogs: The people have found their voices and are talking back. You can either shape up and get your act together, or you can get out of the way. Because not only can you hear us, we can hear each other. What makes your voice by rights so special?