April 25, 2005
... And Another Thing
Having just fired off two ranty e-mails to Robin, I thought I’d just go ahead and take the rants public. My beef was these three reports/manifestos/speeches that have been setting the hearts of the likes of Jay Rosen and Jeff Jarvis all a-flutter.
If you haven’t read them, they all make essentially the same point — old-school journalism’s in trouble. Shorter Merrill Brown: Young people don’t read newspapers. Shorter Tim Porter: And it’s the fault of backwards-thinking journalists. Shorter Rupert Murdoch: No, seriously. Young people like never read newspapers.
I’ll take my rantings past the jump, so you can continue unassaulted, if you so prefer.
I agree with all of them, and I’m sure they all had quite the effect on their old-school audiences. But I thought the pioneers of the media future had all settled on these points long ago and since moved on to more interesting things. I mean, I’m all for some good, cathartic fawning and all, but this is getting ridiculous. Jay Rosen not only replied in the comments of Porter’s post itself — “This is your greatest post yet. I have some sense of what it took to get here.” — he also wrote at length about it on his blog. Twice. And he’s entitled to it. But it all just feels so twelve years ago. When we start talking around in circles like this, I get impatient about the snail’s pace of this alleged revolution. The brashness of youth, I guess.
The other thing that worries me is that with all the talk of blowing the roof off journalism, I think many of us are still looking for a template. Like, Ooh! Ooh! The inverted pyramid is dead! Let’s go find something else to invert!
I hear a lot of pining for, to give one example, Sy Hersh. He’s often cited as a model of contemporary journalism, the type of journalist we will ostensibly lose when news becomes all EPIC-ed out.
Sy Hersh is a rock star and an outlier. He’s not a template, nor is he an example of why the template of modern journalism works. He has done well in his mode, in his age. Others will do as well or better in future modes, in future ages, but probably not by trying to become Sy Hersh.
Jon Stewart is a rock star and an outlier. Just because he’s more engaging and just as intelligent (scroll to the bottom) as Peter Jennings or Dan Rather does not mean that by emulating the Daily Show format, we can also win the hearts and minds of America’s youth. Stewart took an okay form and made it shine in a way Craig Kilborn did not. And if the next Daily Show host doesn’t, it won’t be because he’s not trying enough to be like Jon Stewart.
Ninety percent of everything has been and will continue to be crap. We’re entering an age of what I hope will be much, much more crap. Because I’ve got my eye on that growing 10% slice of goodness.