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Professors and New Media

A professor at UC-Berkeley, where I’ve been teaching part-time, bemoans “The decline of news” in an op-ed piece in today’s SF Chronicle. Needless to say, I think he’s way, way off the mark, and I’m working on a response that’s a lot more optimistic.

2 Comments on “Professors and New Media”

  1. #1 Seth Finkelstein
    on May 29th, 2007 at 5:35 pm

    I think he’s pre-emptively rebutted what I *suspect* you’ll say, right here:

    “Idolaters of Web-based news and information sites, “citizen”-produced journalism, and the blogosphere of individual self-publishers, often argue that old mainstays such as The Chronicle are, in fact, getting only what they deserve.

    If “old” media cannot successfully adjust to the digital age, too bad, these critics argue. The corporate media were never that good in the first place, they say, and have failed us miserably in the past. There are plenty of alternatives on the Web to take traditional journalism’s place, including the millions of bloggers opining about the news, not to mention powerful news aggregators such as Google and Yahoo whose computerized search robots harvest riches of news and other content provided by others — and generate billions of dollars in annual profits for their owners.

    As a teacher of journalism, I see the situation differently. I see a world where the craft of reporting the news fairly and independently is very much endangered; and with it a society increasingly fractured, less informed by fact and more susceptible to political and marketing propaganda, cant and bias.”

    This is also an issue that Andrew Keen works at, in the stopped-clock-right-twice-a-day sense.

    But I don’t think the “Idolaters of Web” side engages the critique *fairly*. There’s a set of marketing talking points which get repeated over and over. But they’re aimed at hype-sell-manipulate. And the weapon of last resort there is too often the flaming personal attack from on-high (n.b. to your credit, you don’t do this Dan, but too many other A-listers do).

    Then again, I’m certainly not one who can speak with any authority, and am probably wasting my time, or worse :-(.

  2. #2 Jon Garfunkel
    on May 29th, 2007 at 8:46 pm

    Aha, that would be professor Neil Henry. He’s got a book out. Hence the op-ed.

    His name came from to me from a most unusual place. I asked some of my sources last week which people in new media they followed. I suggested names like yours and Robert Niles, and listed your affiliation. One of the would-be citizen-pundits responded, in essence, “J-School! Run Away!” I tried to explain that guys like you were trying to reform J-School, but to no avail. Yet he named Henry a media thinker he followed.

    Meanwhile, Henry brought up the Google News algorithm. Yes, in essence Google is answering the questions “who is a journalist” and “what is news.” I brought that up to ONA some time ago, and didn’t get the response I was looking for.