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News Consumption by Voting

The Project for Excellence in Journalism has released a survey, “The Latest News Headlines—Your Vote Counts,” and asks:

If someday we have a world without journalists, or at least without editors, what would the news agenda look like? How would citizens make up a front page differently than professional news people? If a new crop of user-news sites—and measures of user activity on mainstream news sites—are any indication, the news agenda will be more diverse, more transitory, and often draw on a very different and perhaps controversial list of sources, according to a new study.

With respect (and I have a lot of respect for PEJ), this feels like the wrong question — and it reaches a debatable answer — although the survey has value.

We are not heading to a world with no editors. A portion of the editorial role, at least the part of the editorial role that involves picking stories, is moving to community-driven sites. Digg, Reddit and others in the PEJ survey are crude approximations, however, of what is coming.

Voting is about popularity, and that proves nothinglittle. Mix in reputation — an enormously complex problem — and you have something worthwhile. I’ll have more on this in a longer piece soon.

7 Comments on “News Consumption by Voting”

  1. #1 News flash: Digg headlines not "real" news » mathewingram.com/work
    on Sep 12th, 2007 at 2:21 pm

    [...] But people like Nick are happy to do so anyway. Dan Gillmor has some brief thoughts on the topic here, and there’s a good in-depth look at the implications of the study at SFGate as well. Digg, [...]

  2. #2 News flash: Digg headlines not "real" news » mathewingram.com/media
    on Sep 12th, 2007 at 2:25 pm

    [...] But people like Nick are happy to do so anyway. Dan Gillmor has some brief thoughts on the topic here, and there’s a good in-depth look at the implications of the study at SFGate as well. digg, [...]

  3. #3 Seth Finkelstein
    on Sep 12th, 2007 at 3:36 pm

    “We are not heading to a world with no editors.”

    Really? It’s not a read-write participartory-emergent unconversation?

    There’s, like, gasp GATEKEEPERS???

    Except the new ones are even more interested in entertainment than the old ones?

    Who would have thought!

    “The people formerly known as informed”
    http://www.roughtype.com/archives/2007/09/the_people_form.php

    “When you replace professional editors with a crowd or a social network, you actually end up accelerating the dumbing-down of news. News becomes a stream of junk-food-like morsels. The people formerly known as the audience may turn out to be the people formerly known as informed.”

    But remember, that’s where the money is. That’s where the attention is. Anyone else, well, They Don’t Get It. :-(

  4. #4 Is This a Surprise? : The Last Podcast
    on Sep 12th, 2007 at 4:02 pm

    [...] At least some people are now criticizing this study. See: Mathew Ingram, James Robertson, and Dan Gillmor. Nick Carr, however, should know better. — Related Posts [...]

  5. #5 Rollo
    on Sep 12th, 2007 at 7:13 pm

    There’s a discussion about this question over at TechCrunch today. Go add your thoughts (mine’s #6: I’m worried Seth is right but hopeful Dan’s optimism will prevail).

    http://www.techcrunch.com/2007/09/12/does-social-media-make-you-dumb/

  6. #6 Karl
    on Sep 13th, 2007 at 5:39 am

    Seth, I challenge you to find wherever Dan said that editors would no longer serve a function in the future.

    I agree it’s a flawed survey, but I’m happy they did it.

    Here’s the bigger question – in this world of news when you want it, why does 1 in 3 Americans Still Believe Saddam Involved in 9/11? Blaming traditional media isn’t the answer. We have choices now.

    http://www.editorandpublisher.com/eandp/news/article_display.jsp?vnu_content_id=1003638490&imw=Ywww.mercurynews.com/search/ci_6859681?IADID=Search-www.mercurynews.com-www.mercurynews.com&nclick_check=1

  7. #7 Seth Finkelstein
    on Sep 13th, 2007 at 10:17 am

    Karl, you should know by now that by definition I’d lose in any dispute against an A-lister. Whatever I found, the A-lister just has to say “I didn’t mean that, I meant …” (that’s the nice version, the nasty version is to make a personal attack).

    Part of the problem is that the business of web-evangelism requires both populist rhetoric, and sellng the audience to big business. So there can be a lot of fancy footwork going back and forth between those contradictory ideas.

    The answer to your question is something I’ve been harping on for a while – news is NOT just a matter of information being “out there”. There’s a whole complicated social/political structure to which information gets heard, and new technology bring new exploitation. Much of the rhetoric of “Web 2.0″ is in fact extremely unfavorable to being correct in favor of being popular..