Nicholas Carr and the demise of journalism
I just finished writing my non-review of The Cult of the Amateur when I found that Carr's at it too. Nicholas Carr of course. Apparently he too believes blogging is going to lead to the demise of professional journalism. What is it with otherwise intelligent people that they have to extrapolate a trend linearly to an apocalyptic conclusion? It shows a complete failure to grasp even the basics of systems theory.
I'm not blind to the limitations and the flaws of the blogosphere - its superficiality, its emphasis on opinion over reporting, its echolalia, its tendency to reinforce rather than challenge ideological extremism and segregation. Now, all the same criticisms can (and should) be hurled at segments of the mainstream media. And yet, at its best, the mainstream media is able to do things that are different from - and, yes, more important than - what bloggers can do. Those despised "people in a back room" can fund in-depth reporting and research. They can underwrite projects that can take months or years to reach fruition - or that may fail altogether. They can hire and pay talented people who would not be able to survive as sole proprietors on the Internet. They can employ editors and proofreaders and other unsung protectors of quality work. They can place, with equal weight, opposing ideologies on the same page. Forced to choose between reading blogs and subscribing to, say, the New York Times, the Financial Times, the Atlantic, and the Economist, I will choose the latter. I will take the professionals over the amateurs.
But I don't want to be forced to make that choice.
You won't you berk. If pap internet content displaces anything it will be pap journalism. Bloggers aren't going to provide the daily news about car crashes and court cases and weather forecasts. And they sure as hell aren't going to displace the Economist. But they will worry paparazzi and women's mags and Disney comics and most of the Murdoch piffle. Big deal. Pap in any medium is still pap.
The Internet will push up into more intellectual layers of journalism. It will challenge opinion columnists in quality papers. But there will always be a market for quality journalism. Who won't pay a buck to read the NYT on the train? Who won't still pick up a glossy Rolling Stone off the news-stand? Or New Scientist? Or the Economist - which I regard as the pinnacle of journalism.
And hey - some of that quality professional journalism is going to creep into blogs. The best blogs are already on their way there. They have a brand to protect. they'll develop the resources, the research and yes we hope also the ethics of the best of journalists. By doing so that will put them ahead of the majority of newspapers and TV stations.
Finally, obviously, professional journalists are in general despicable but they aren't stupid. They will embrace the new medium and make chunks of it their own just as they did with television.
There is a need for a reality check around Web 2.0 - I've said so myself. But this Chicken-Little hysteria is unbecoming. Get real and calm down.