July 19, 2004

What is Journalism?

The LA Times should really recategorize itself as a comedy daily. It provides so much unintentional humor, this story on blogging and journalism being a case in point. The thrust of the piece is that stories that don't show both sides, don't provide calm, cool objective analysis are simply not journalism.

If that were the case, journalism in the US during the 18th century simply didn't exist. This is such a historically challenged piece that it wouldn't get a passing grade in a freshman history of journalism course. That it made it onto the pages of one of the major metropolitan newspapers of the United States is simply an embarrassment. That the writer is a director of a Center on press, politics, and public policy at Harvard University simply makes you feel sorry for those poor saps who pay so much money to attend such a center for pointless bloviating.

For those who are similarly historically challenged, something very close to the blogging style was the rule, not the exception in the 18th century as well as a great part of the 19th. It is only in the 20th century that the US press caught the "objectivity" bug. If you wanted both sides of a story, you bought papers on both sides and did your own synthesis, not taking either side as gospel truth. The same process goes on with blogs today. I run through a large variety of blogs, left, right, libertarian, and even the occasional communist and nazi gets on my reading list. With me doing my own synthesis, I'm sure that I'm being exposed to the best arguments on every side and I can judge for myself who's blowing smoke and who has a real point to make on the subject.

From a conventional "objective" newspaperman's point of view, this is profoundly disturbing as a great deal of their "value added" is in providing that synthesis for the reader. This provides an awful lot of power for the 4th estate and the reappearance of a lively, growing format that gives the job of synthesis back to the reader has got to be threatening to both their business model and their social standing.

Look for lots more mud to fly before there's a resolution.

Posted by TMLutas at July 19, 2004 11:05 AM