Friday, March 24, 2006

Of Media Mistakes and Explanations

Howard Kurtz examines Jeff Jarvis' take on NYT's Editor-In-Chief Bill Keller

Mr. Jarvis takes issue with Mr. Keller's blaise stance regarding NY Times transperancy. Here's the money quote:
Keller and BuzzMachine's Jeff Jarvis had a fascinating exchange about a year ago, and Jarvis (now a consultant to the Times Co.) is quite unhappy with Keller's AJR quotes, including this one:
" It's a little harder at the Times because we are the Times. We attract a more intense curiosity .
"But it's not mere curiosity. That implies that the reliability of the product and the process of journalism are unchallenged and that we, the people, are merely nosey tourists wanting to have a look 'round the factory, just curious, not questioning. No, we're asking more than that. We deserve more than that. And The Times, because of that special position it holds and the privilege and access and attention it receives as a result, owes us more. . . .

"To say that readers are not 'entitled' to view that process is, to me, a claim of ownership over the news. Journalists came to believe that they owned news because they owned distribution or were granted special access. But they don't and never did. The public owns the news. It is ours. And the public has a perfect right to judge the stewardship journalists exercise over news."

Mr. Jarvis makes an excellent point. The public's right to know, not the journalist's monopoly on telling, is the basis for the news. No organ of Media can seriously claim ownership of the news. Many, however, act as though their reporting of the news is a proprietary right over the news itself. The arrogance of many MSM outlets perpetuates this attitude, ensuring that embarrassments such as the Gray Lady's recent misadventures in accuracy will continue.

The advocates of MSM are so intent to bash the unprofessionalism of blogs that they forget one thing: Every Blogger is a fact-checker of every other blogger. While collective passions can sweep many bloggers along to unfortunate ends, such as the recent DBW port controversy, for the most bloggers hold each other accountable. If a blogger's facts are wrong, and he refuses to correct them in the face of evidence, he loses credibility. That means he loses readers and influence.

MSM had better get used to the fact that the news belongs to everyone. Then they can begin persuading their consumers that they actually know how to deliver it. Otherwise, watch many continue their march down dinosaur row.