Are we getting the media we deserve?

A few days ago I read a thought provoking piece from Will Sturgeon on the value of PR and how it’s evolved over the past decade or so, the most interesting bit though as his assertion that “Bad PR is purely a product of bad journalism”. This is based on a number of factors but basically can be summed up as there are now far more outlets for content and far fewer journalists than ever before, thus making it far easier for soft news stories to be sold in and picked up.

I think that Sturgeon is being rather kind and that while bad PR may thrive because of bad journalism that doesn’t excuse many of the sloppy practices that seem to have become the norm in some corners of the industry.

Of course the hope is that social media will be better for PR. Free of the time constraints, editorial demands and a  code of ethics, bloggers have no compunction in calling shenanigans on dodgy survey based stories or naming and shaming ill-constructed or poorly put together pitches.  All of which should hopefully make PR practitioners up their game a bit.

Then, via Tom Murphy, I picked up on Andrew Sullivan’s piece in the Times on the future of print and the role of blogging. Sullivan believes that print is a dead medium (shocker) but that blogging is not a viable replacement as its just not scaleable.

The terrifying problem is that a one-man blog cannot begin to do the necessary labour-intensive, skilled reporting that a good newspaper sponsors and pioneers.

The problem is though that very few papers still devote much resource to detailed investigation, instead churning what is fed to them by various sources, whereas the one man blogger can devote as much time as he wants, he/she is just not able to cover a broad spectrum of topics in depth, as a paper should be able to.  One would hope that the challenge from such dedicated bloggers would increase the competition for journalists and that perhaps good blogging will lead to good journalism.  Sullivan suggests a slightly utopian future, where:

Perhaps private philanthropists will step in and finance not-for-profit journalistic centres, where investigative and foreign reporting can be invested in and disseminated by blogs and online sites. Maybe reporter-bloggers will start rivalling opinion-mongers such as me and give the whole enterprise some substance. Maybe papers can slim down sufficiently to produce a luxury print issue and a viable online product.

However I can’t help but feel that the current obsession for providing news quickly if inaccurately will continue, that true investigative journalism will become even more of a rarity and we’re generally ending up with the media that we deserve.

0 thoughts on “Are we getting the media we deserve?

  1. As newspapers decline the reader will be left to sort out what blogs to believe. Major newspapers, like them or not, are sticklers about fact checking and keeping opinions to the op-ed section – although they can slant stories toward there overall theme – (i.e. WSJ vs. Washington Post during the election)

    Where as the blogger has no one to be accountable than then his/her followers, who are often of like mind.

  2. Here’s what I think is the problem:

    Blogging has come along in an era of journalism poisoned by laziness and lack of dollar (creating diminishing interest from the public) and as such is held up in direct comparison.

    Journos, PR, print media and the public are all culpable for poor journalism.

    Blogs are, theoretically, editorially pure – or at least reassuringly suspicious of PR. They see bad PR in the way journalists should. But they’re not scaleable, and they’re not really a viable replacement.

    I prefer to see the two as separate channels.

  3. Hi Kerry, and thanks for a thought-provoking piece.

    However, while I agree that the journalism in mainstream media tends to the lax, I think there are important distinction to be made between Journalists and Bloggers.

    (I should point out here that I’m really only able to comment in respect of Political blogs and journalism, because that’s my personal field.)

    Andrew Sullivan’s comment is, in many ways, absolutely correct. With a few notable exceptions – the professional bloggers who have impeccable sources and contacts and who frequently have a background in journalism (like Iain Dale) – it’s only MSM who have reporters on the ground, in the political lobbies, gaining information. Journalists break and report the stories – in most instances, including myself, Bloggers are merely Op-Ed writers, filing opinions to the stories broken by journalists.

    However, this is where Bloggers come into their own. Once a story has broken, Bloggers have the time to research, cross-reference and provide depth and colour. We also tend to be unhampered by the legal restrictions that apply to MSM as well.

    There’s also the sheer volume to consider in comparison to MSM. There are many sources of news worldwide, but there are many, many more Bloggers. And I would actually hazard that the vast bulk of those Bloggers are actually rubbish. The ubiquity of Web access and the ease by which anyone can post a Blog means that the majority are drivel…however, it also means that we, as consumers, can find the minority which do have good principles and develop trust with them.

    I don’t know what the end result will be – whether MSN or the blogosphere will win the day in the news markets – but I’ll be interested to find out.

    Regards

    D

  4. @jazz316 I can’t speak for USA papers but quality in the UK is definitely dropping – I can’t recommend Flat Earth News by Nick Davies highly enough for a very scary look at the reality of the British newspaper industry

    @Chris I’d prefer to see the two as distinct channels too, but they’re already starting to blend, think of how many newspapers have blogs and encourage user comment, and I can’t see how that process can be reversed.

    @Dungeekin I think part of the problem for journalists is that they don’t have time to research and break the stories that they used to. Instead they rely on PR and to a certain extent the blogosphere to do the ground work for them, which leads to far less interesting and useful news coming out.

    I agree that the vast majority of blogs are drivel, but the problem is not everyone can tell drivel from non-drivel. In fact I’ve just spent a couple of hours working with the team here at PN trying to work out how we can classify different blogs to help ppl make some sort of standard assessment and we’re still not sure of the best way to go about it, and we’re meant to be a cut above the average consumer ..:(

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