Real Journalist Ignores Future of Many Real Journalists

April 18, 2012

Years ago I worked for Bill Ziff, yep, the magazine guy. In the late 1980s and in the early years of the 1990s, magazines worked. But today magazines are no longer the slam dunk. In 1989 it took about $1 million to get a new title off the ground. If you had lots of titles, the costs were still punishing but there were economies of scale.

I read “Is a Blogger a Journalist?”, published in a property once owned by Mr. Ziff. The write up contains this passage:

Hopefully this un-American precedent will be reversed shortly. Meanwhile, the public should be outraged. Furthermore, for years, many writers have advocated for the idea that the Bill of Rights is outdated in the modern era and that journalists per se should be regulated. These people should be strongly rebuked. If we do not protect our rights, we lose them.

Sounds good. My thoughts are:

  • The distinction between a “real” journalist, a run-of-the-mill  journalist like those riffed from the Courier Journal a couple weeks ago, and bloggers is a fuzzy one indeed. Fuzziness leads to ambiguity, of which there are seven types.
  • When “real” journals find a way to make money like the News Corp., the notion of behavior becomes somewhat plastic. Alleged criminal behavior seems to surface when some of the “real” journalists’ methods come to light. The run-of-the-mill journalists try to build a following or eek out an income doing whatever. I had one writer tell me he made more spreading mulch than producing content for my non-real information services.
  • The folks who consume content do not know when a story is “real”, “shaded,” or flat out  incorrect. The ability or willingness to dig in and determine facts, no matter how slippery, is eroding. The rush to “smart software” which tells a person what he or she needs to know is the next wave in information.

Bottom line: Say, hello, to murky. Do you know if the search results you get from Bing, Google, or Yandex are “accurate”? I didn’t think so. Assumptions are much easier than figuring out what is going on with “free” content no matter who produces it. I have not decided if I will post the paper I am giving at the Text Analytics Conference in San Francisco next week. The subject? Manipulating predictive systems by exploiting persistence, simplification, and sampling.

Stephen E Arnold, April 18, 2012

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