Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Journalism & Poignancy - one result of the democratisation of doubt

More sense from Terry Heaton’s PoMo Blog.

Chris Satullo, a columnist for the Philadelphia Inquirer, wrote a poignant farewell column this weekend. He’s leaving the paper to work for the public station, WHYY.
I leave a business that seems to have lost both the will and the way to support the craft of journalism it once burnished to a fine sheen.

It’s a business that, in its pig-headed insularity, authored some of its own woes - but now is being swept helplessly along by the cascading changes of a Gutenberg moment. The Internet is changing our world as definitively as the printing press changed Europe - and more rapidly.

In my time, newspapers - and the journalists who worked for them - have made some mistakes. We embraced a priestly elitism, failing to explain ourselves clearly to readers or to confess frankly our mistakes of judgment. We were slow to respond when people, money and power flowed to the suburbs, slow to grasp the game-changing implications of the Web (though catching up now).

We screwed up plenty. At the same time, though, we did some splendid, useful things for the Republic.

That’s the pesky paradox of it: While we could at times be as arrogant as our critics claimed, we were more ethical and adept than they would ever admit.

Here's the thing about so much of the hand-wringing despair of journalists: how few times do the readers and audiences of "news" get a shout? How often does the behaviour of readers get noticed, or noted? And, if you know any print journalists, how many times have you heard them say: "I don't care about what our readers think?"

The democratisation of doubt extends to doubting the word of journalists - of course: it's out there, one contrarian click away.

More specifically British gloom here:

In 2002, 12.8m national newspapers were sold daily on average in the UK. This year it was fewer than 11m and in 2013 it will be slightly above 9m, according to Enders Analysis, the media research specialist.

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