24 February 2012 Comments Off

Do scoops still matter?

A study commissioned by Craig Newmark  recently found that only six percent of respondents believed that being first to report a story was the most important factor in choosing a source for election news.

The national survey of likely voters by Lincoln Park Strategies found that an overwhelming plurality–49 percent–said that being “trustworthy” was most important and an additional 23 percent cited “in-depth analysis” as the most important factor.

The audience may be ahead of the media on this. The news cycle that once drove our judgments has basically disappeared, yet news organizations continue to be locked into a speed arms race.  Speed is in the stock: Audiences are no longer wedded to specific news sources, like print newspapers or websites, but are plugged into an information matrix as both consumers and publishers. Being first to say something important has happened matters much less than being first to explain what it means.

Among other findings:

  • Newspapers (22 percent), network TV (21 percent) and cable TV (21 percent) are trusted about equally.
  • About twice as many respondents (34 percent) said social media has had a negative impact on news reporting rather than a positive impact (17 percent). However, 28 percent said there had been no impact and 17 percent didn’t know.

My reading list:

  • Alex Johnson, a fine writer and editor with whom I worked at MSNBC.com, takes a look at the outrage over an ESPN headline about Jeremy Lin that contained a racial slur and sees a media world in which young journalists have every right to be petrified of the consequences of a mistake. In the days when Alex and I were breaking into journalism on smallish daily newspapers, if you made a mistake, maybe 50,000 readers would see it. Now, as Alex points out, anyone with an Internet connection can see it and employers are unforgiving.
  • Just in time for Sunday’s Academy Awards show, Slate’s  Elbert Ventura argues that Alexander Payne’s multi-Oscar nominated “The Descendants” is more than the sum of its considerable surface pleasures. “Don’t let the soothing uke and sun-dappled sadness fool you—The Descendants is no less interested in the cosmic than that exegete’s delight The Tree of Life,”  he writes. Payne is a favorite of mine; in “The Descendants,” “Election,” “About Schmidt” and “Sideways” he gives us a view of American life that’s not out of central casting.
  • Reuters’ Jack Shafer takes a clear-eyed and unhysterical look at the prospect of an investment group headed by Democratic pol Ed Rendell buying the Philadelphia Inquirer and the Philadelphia Daily News. Shafer reminds us that having politicians involved in media is not exactly a recent development in the U.S. and that established publishers and “philosopher kings” aren’t queuing up to bid on the Philadelphia papers. Besides, he notes, “politicos have been refashioning themselves as TV newsers for several decades in the contemporary era, replaying scenes from the yellow journalism period.” Like Shafer, I’m pained that it’s becoming so difficult for cities to support daily papers that can both make money and make great journalism. Would a paper controlled by a politician be worse than no paper at all?





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