Posted by Amanda Chapel
...an exhilarating downhill slide toward cultural chaos.
Looks like the Jarvis Political Party has finally been busted for fraud. For those of you visiting from outer space, Jeff Jarvis of BuzzMachine is a key spokesperson for a quasi-political party (some would call populace mob) whose mission it is to change the type of news and information you consume. Bottom-line: he/they contend that gone are days of media institutions as the source for information. The new model, they believe and avidly promote, is a worldwide network of Web stringers and consumer producers. Why’s that political? Because news and information is the backbone of organized policy and the very essence of democracy.
Anyway, according to a new study “News Agency Dominance in International News on the Internet” by Dr. Chris Paterson, University of Leeds Centre for International Communications Research, Jarvis and his followers are flat-world dead wrong. Paterson calls the apparently limitless expansion of news sources on the Web "a conjurer's trick", i.e. a fraud. He adds: "We are being duped by more brand labels on the same, very limited, news content. For most end-users, the Internet is a mass medium providing mostly illusory interactivity and mostly illusory diversity."
See... the benefit of Web journalism is based on the illusion of ever-expanding choice. Peter Kirwian, editor of Fullrun, hit the nail on the head as to the essential fallacy: “It's always been a paradox. On the one hand, the rise of the web was supposed to open the floodgates to multiple sources of news. On the other, the economics of this idea were an obvious problem right from the start. How could the Internet support such an array of different news sources if web advertising generated so little revenue compared to print?”
A growing number of people get their news from the Internet, but they are being subjected to a narrowing worldview of global events. Dr. Paterson apparently thinks this is a cause for concern and has been investigating this paradox for the past five years. Back in 2001, he used plagiarism detection software to analyze a sample of international stories on major web sites. The software found that 68% of news copy on aggregator sites like Yahoo and Google News could be traced back to stories originally generated by agencies like Reuters, the Press Association and Associated Press. Paterson repeated the exercise in 2006 and found that the proportion had risen to 85%. Perhaps more alarmingly, Paterson found that the amount of original in-house reporting undertaken by traditional media outlets had also declined. In 2001, these traditional outlets (such as the BBC and the UK's national newspapers) were dependent on wire copy for 34% of their content. Today, the proportion is 50%.
A recent report State of the News Media 2006 confirms those findings: "For now, it appears that the resources devoted to skilled journalism will continue to shrink as the web grows."
In deference to the populace mob, the Guardian gingerly asked the fundamental question: Do these findings really matter? They half answer: “Some media commentators would bemoan that, with blogs, citizen journalism and personalized newsbots, the new media model is ‘cultural chaos.’” So. The Jarvis Party will tell ya that the slide is absolutely exhilarating.
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The real question what constitutes a news "source"? If CNN, the New York Times, and DailyKos all publish an Associate Press story - is that only one source? What if they print different versions of the same story, by providing different analysis?
Or, better yet, what is the difference if Cal Thomas' column is printed in a newspaper or in a blog? What if Al Franken did a podcast instead of trying to be on Air America?
The various ways people will get their news is changing. Network news is suffering declining viewership. Newspaper subscription rates are down. An evolution is clearly taking place.
So what will step into the void? It has to be, and will be, the plethora of news sources on the Internet.
Moreover, traditional news outlets do not really present different news than one another. Watch CNN, Fox, or MSNBC when a major story breaks. The difference is in the analysis. When a major national daily and a local weekly newspaper cover the same event, the real difference is the quality of the reporting and the analysis provided therein.
And so it will be with on-line sources. As schools of journalism graduate students with familiarity with social media, you will see an improvement with these sources.
Something will happen. It has too.
"So what will step into the void? It has to be, and will be, the plethora of news sources on the Internet."
No. News and information requires an authoritative system. In a flat world, that's gone. Objective fact is replaced by subjective shit. In a world where you trust your borg... reality is replaced by iterations of groupthink.
No matter how many MySpace friends that gives me... I don't want that world.