Friday, May 28, 2010

Clarity And Honesty

Another new media/old media fight broke out.

It's an old fight, one where many of the combatants have tired and retreated from the field, but the recent news that many major papers in Georgia are pooling resources caused old hurts to resurface at Beyond The Trestle.

And I believe the fight has swayed from "our side" being on the offensive to being on the defensive. And I believe the wounds are self-inflicted.
There is a great deal of hubris in the online community right now. And as many have suspected, it is personally causing me existential angst. We are becoming exactly what the old media said we would - full of ourselves and thumping our chests over a product that is becoming half ass. The bottom line is we had a chance to raise ourselves to them and instead they are descending towards us. And some are gleefully declaring victory.
But The Atlantic's Ta-Nehisi Coates tangentially makes my point with more eloquence:
Lastly, there's what my label-mate Andrew calls, "journalism's dirty secret." The dirty secret is this--perhaps more than any other "profession" journalism's barriers to entry are really artificial. It does take a special person to be a great journalist. Curiosity in the extreme is important. A strong desire to see, and thus think, clearly is important. But neither of these can really be taught in a crude classroom environment. Journalism can't be absorbed through a series of lectures and assigned readings. It must be done. No one can teach you how to go up to strangers and ask rude questions. You just have to do it. Repeatedly.

I highlighted those particular lines because I believe too many will focus on the last few lines.

One thing I tell all aspiring "citizen journalists" is pick up a pen and a pad and go ask questions. Most will be shocked at how easy it is to gain access and how willing people are to answer questions. But it does take a bold person to make that first move. However, it is so much more than just having the gumption to "go up to strangers and ask rude questions"

It is about clarity and honesty.

If you go into a story with a preconceived narrative, you are only fulfilling half your task. If you are unwilling to have your mind changed, you might as well write in a vacuum. Echo chambers only create reflections - hey never produce any new sounds.

And many of us have fallen far short of these simple standards. Even sadder, some of us see it as a triumph. More on that later.


Rusty said...

This discussion is so, so tired. Everybody was half right about a lot of things. Which also makes everybody half wrong about a lot of things.

I think everybody just needs to drink a few beers, declare blanket amnesty, and move on to trying do whatever it is they do well instead of focusing on the shortcomings of others.

griftdrift said...

Guess who I was picturing in my mind when I wrote, "one where many of the combatants have tired and retreated from the field"


Rusty said...

Heh. And FWIW, the reporting pool isn't a bad concept. Papers can't afford to send their own reporters now anyway, so the alternative is no coverage at all or AP coverage. Whether it works will be a question of how the execution plays out.