Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Old and new media face off

An interesting charge and counter-charge has the editor of the New York Times on one side versus nearly the entire new media world on the other.

New York Times Executive Editor Bill Keller kicked things off with a column attacking much of the new media universe, especially Twitter and news aggregators. The response was quick, complete and rough. This FishbowlNY report sums up much of the anti-Keller arguments, including lots of links. Basically, Keller repeats a basic argument accepted by many that relying on social media for your information can mean you're missing a lot, and that aggregators like the Huffington Post or Google News aren't creating anything. He's right, and I think the overwhelming attacks on his argument support his position.

That doesn't mean that social media, including Twitter, are not valid news sources. Much of the information about what's happening with the radical changes in Wisconsin government comes not from newspapers or television but from blogs, Twitter and Facebook. Frankly, they -- in total -- are doing a better job than the Journal Sentinel, which has only so much space, reporters, and some political issues to overcome. By going through the 43 blogs I look at on a regular basis (they span the political spectrum), I am learning a lot that the JS isn't reporting.

The flap reminds me of an observation a couple of years ago. An acquaintance who is a computer engineer and whose news consumption is primarily online and on television, asked a simple question: "Was there a controversy over the 2000 presidential election?" He was serious. Somehow, he had missed the millions of words and stories about that election. Studies have shown that learning comes in many ways, but reading something is one of the best. I can't imagine that a newspaper reader wouldn't know of the 2000 election controversy. You need to get information from a lot of places these days, and at least one of them should have original reporting.

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