Wednesday, June 10, 2009

The Changing Journalistic Guard

Things often get chippy when there is a changing of the guard. It happens in sports. In happens in politics. And it happens in business.

The graying generation and the wunderkinds point fingers and cry foul about how the other side simply doesn’t get it.

There is a whole lot of finger pointing right now in the world of technology reporting. The New York Times’ Damon Darlin fired off this weekend in an article entitled Get the Tech Scuttlebutt! (It Might Even Be True.) Darlin contends that well read blogs like TechCrunch, Gawker and Gizmodo dance around the tenets of good journalism for the sake of speed in reporting and attraction of audience.

In the article Darlin quotes TechCrunch’s Michael Arrington as explaining, “Getting it right is expensive…Getting it first is cheap.”

Darlin’s lesson to readers: don’t trust the content of even the most respected and well-read blogs. Of course, the implication is that the market should embrace newspapers like the New York Times, regardless of the viability of their business model.

Arrington was quick to shout back with a rebuttal entitled The Morality and Effectiveness of Process Journalism. In addition to dissecting the flaws in Darlin’s reporting, Arrington presents his case for TechCrunch’s approach to content development. (Michael Arrington photo courtesy of LA Times.)

“We don’t believe that readers need to be presented with the sausage all the time,” he writes. “Sometimes it’s both entertaining and informative to see that Sausage being made, too. The key is to be transparent at all times.”

My take is that in the near-term there will continue to be a distinct and equally important place in the information chain for mainstream media and industry blogs. However, the shift in influence to blogs, social networks and online communities will continue to accelerate.

This changing of the journalistic guard will set in motion an important chain of events:

1. Market demands will drive traditional media outlets and industry blogs closer together in their content development and reporting methodologies. Journalists will increasingly become more lenient in their adherence to the peer-reviewed editorial process, while tier-one bloggers will add a level of diligence to retain credibility.

2. There will be consolidation as publishers acquire blogs that have attracted a strong and loyal following. Ultimately, a content hierarchy will be established in which news reporting and analysis is presented by a publisher in different formats across multiple media. This is somewhat comparable to how Disney produces and broadcasts sports entertainment on its ABC and ESPN properties.

3. As acquired industry blogs further evolve their content methodology under corporate ownership, the gossip and rumor reporting void will be filled by upstart bloggers who see an opportunity to attract attention and readership.

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