Wednesday, March 25, 2009

More On Newspapers

There were a lot of good points in the comments to my last post on newspapers and journalism, so I figured this was worthy of its own follow-up post. Last time, I mentioned Bill Simmons podcast with Chuck Kosterman and there was one point the usually articulate Simmons was trying to make and just couldn't quite spit out. The two were basically rehashing the old internet versus newspapers argument, when Simmons pointed out that the reason he went to the internet was because the entrenched nature of many newspaper writers- particularly the sports columnists- made him realize that he could work for twenty years and never get the chance to really do the kind of writing he wanted to do. Klosterman kept pointing out that Simmons himself had become a sort of internet version of the entrenched columnist he was railing against and what Simmons sputtered to get out was that his writing on the internet was held to a much higher standard than many of these newspaper columnists. While some columnists would spend years mailing it in so to speak, Simmons felt he was continually working his ass off to keep his front page spot on ESPN's web page.

And I believe Simmons- with so many options there is more accountability on the internet. It's simply easier on the internet to go somewhere else. There are generally few options in regards to sports columnists and local papers and you can imagine the difficulty of gauging public opinion of their work.

Now, Klosterman makes a good point that popular journalism is not at all the same thing as good journalism, but I think this plays into the point I made last time about the need to distinguish newspapers from journalism altogether. USA Today may be (or have been?) a popular newspaper, but they're not doing journalism, they're just regurgitating the news gleamed from elsewhere in a visually pleasing format. I don't think the public mistakes bad journalism for good or bad writing for good, I just think that the public in general, particularly older generations, are wedded to this same idea of newspapers and journalism being interconnected. In the newspaper world, people talk about the papers themselves more than they do about columnists and much, much more than they do about reporters. I think given the opportunity, the public can appreciate good writing and good reporting, but we're basically being held back by the restrictions of a dying format.


Anonymous McMc said...

The reason you don't hear any talk about reporters is simple: Reporters are trained to present information in a distinct stlye. To go back to when I was a student again, the key was to use less words and not more. Be succinct and just present the information in order of most important to least important.

And when it comes to columnists, they are exclusive to a paper more often than not and therefore the paper takes precedence.

Now, that's not to say that some papers aren't better at reporting than others. But as you point out, USA Today regurgitates news and they have been a popular newspaper.

When you really think about it, not many people are exposed to different sources of print journalism so how are they really going to distinguish good writing from bad writing, good journalism from poor journalism?

5:27 PM  

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