Originally Published March 18, 2007
Reporting from PodCamp Atlanta
A difficult question. If an animal is wounded do you attempt to assist it or do you shoot it? Depending on region, background and culture, you may receive two equally passionate and two equally valid answers. Me? I would certainly attend a wounded animal yet the decision to put it out its misery would be quick and with no regret.
In my city of Atlanta and in many other cities across the land, we are witnessing the pained throes of animals on the edge of extinction. Television stations pay huge sums of money to talking hair-dos and nobody tunes in. Print media continues to huddle in the smallest corner of the online world, wringing ink stained hands over staggering drops in circulation. Money pours forth from the wounds of a thousand cuts. Some self-inflicted. Some not.
The situation presents a tortured dichotomy for "new media" warriors. The easy response is to engage in a form of schadenfreude reveling in glee at the misery of the dinosaurs. Yet, though many will vehemently deny the alternate emotion, the vanguard of this new culture desires acceptance by the brick and mortar establishment. The one chit old media clings to viciously is legitimacy. Like children free in the world for the first time, bloggers, vloggers and podcasters simultaneously take a rebellious stance while craving the parent's acceptance of their position as an equal.
At Podcamp Atlanta, Creative Loafing MIS Manager Murray Grevious may have revealed how wide the rift has grown and how little hope there is to save the dying beasts. He stated matter of factly that collaboration between traditional print and new media can never happen due to the constraints of the editorial process. In his opinion, the newsroom simply will not give up control of the filtration and vetting system to become more immediate, reactive and interactive.
It's a fair point and knotty problem. Legitimacy is garnered from the seeds of trust. Editorial control remains the greatest advantage and most onerous burden of the traditional media. Too many in the new media, bloggers in particular, practice shotgun methods of reporting where every bit of a story is thrown against the wall to see what sticks. They peddle in rumor, innuendo and would not admit the concept of retraction or correction exists. Traditional editorial process prevents most of these sins although a few do get through. When the process breaks down, most notably in the Jayson Blair saga, the reaction is instant and harsh.
The trade off for this comfort of accuracy is an insular world with little or no connection to the audience. A world where both a reporter and a blogger can spend three hours in a federal appeals court yet the reporter is limited to a few paragraphs on page three of the metro section while the blogger is free to write a feature length piece. A world where a story garnering national attention is ignored to discuss water buffalo. A world where a Sunday feature deals with such "cutting edge" technology as text messaging.
The question has to be asked, if a company as agile and forward thinking as Creative Loafing (please note none of the above linked stories were published by the Loaf) believes it cannot adjust to the new world, is there any hope at all for the true behemoths? I believe the answer is probably not. The only conclusion that can be reached is it is time to stop assisting the wounded animals and instead fetch the shotgun.
Photo courtesy of Mike Schinkel