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Collaborative Media: Who do you trust?

By rusty in Op-Ed
Thu Oct 26, 2000 at 09:13:03 AM EST
Tags: Internet (all tags)
Internet

In a recent Register article about the Transmeta benchmarking debacle, Andrew Orlowski writes:

In the week that The Nation published an account of how the New York Times' persecution of Los Alamos scientist Wen Ho Lee (an innocent man branded a spy) and compounded it with a now notorious non-apology, we were reminded of how the most august publications can continue to propound information they acknowledge is worthless. And that everyone, but themselves, knows to be worthless too. No, Crusoe benchmarks don't morally equate to the Lee case, but you wonder how long the public prints can show the same ambivalence, superiority and essential stupidity as the NYT, without conceding a little tweak to reality.
Translation: the print media is dead, and the corpse is starting to stink.


Print media is dead, and almost no one seems to realize it yet. Likely no one will know it for quite some time, and if everything goes smoothly, no one will ever find out at all. Print journalism will simply become the place to go for insipid after-the-fact analysis, and will wither ever further into its shell of bumbling half truths and nonsensical nattering (take that Spiro).

The print media is big, slow, and dumb. Your standard gargantuan news empire is composed of 200 tons of flab surrounding a tiny pea-sized spark of intelligence up in the penthouse. What does that remind you of? Our good friends the dinosaurs. Try as they might, they never could quite stomp on all those little scurrying mammals. The collaborative online media, we're the mammals now, and we're all starting to tap our watches and look up at the sky, with an expression of "that asteroid oughta be along aaaany minute now...".

The basic model of media up until now has been "we'll tell you what the news is, and you'll believe us, because hey, we're impartial right?" A small number of people whose main expertise consists of putting words on paper[1] mishear the evasions and sugar-coatings of the representatives from the PR firm of Glossover and Passoff, add some incorrect attributions, and sling it off to the front page. Do they have any idea if the story is accurate, or fair, or balanced, or even non-loony? Of course not. They're not experts in whatever field they were just writing about. It's a giant campfire game of telephone.

Compare and contrast this to the model here. You write the news here. Who are you? You're either the experts on the subject who are knowlegeable and motivated enough to enlighten the rest of us about it, or you are people as bewildered as everyone else, who have done some work to try to enlighten yourselves and are willing to ask for more information. These are the two main categories of story we have here. In both cases, the claims propounded can be responded to, or the questions raised can be addressed, adding to the total accuracy and worth of the article. But what we notably don't have here are "pundits."

"Punditry" is probably worth a small digression. The pundit is the person who has either never done anything worthwhile, or did something worthwhile once and is content to live off that event forever. Pundits come from all walks of life, but their main shared attribute is the tendancy to criticize everyone else, smug in the knowledge that they can never be assailed, because they will never again expose themselves to the danger of failure. Pundits tend to have quotes on their websites such as "the smartest person on the Web", and also sometimes go under the name of "guru."

Traditional print media is a morass of punditry, arrogance, and ignorance. It always has been, but until now we haven't had any other choice. Well, now we do. Either you can stick to the big news organs, and always know slightly less than the average copydesk slob, and a day later to boot, or you can join the incoming dinosaur-crushing asteroid of collaborative media[2]. Them, or yourselves? Who do you trust?

[1] Ok, I'm being generous. I am aware that most of the copy that comes raw from reporters looks like it was written by a functionally illiterate flying squirrel.

[2] If I may be permitted to assign us two different roles in one metaphor.

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Collaborative Media: Who do you trust? | 28 comments (28 topical, editorial, 0 hidden)
Windbags exist online too (4.27 / 11) (#1)
by Sunir on Thu Oct 26, 2000 at 06:04:38 AM EST

We have karma whores, trolls, self-aggrandized pompadours and "gurus" online too. The difference is that with collaborative media you are allowed to critique them in place, right there where they are bullshitting you.

On the other hand, the trade off is that it is much, much easier to lie to each other online. Consider open source/Linux (or <pick your favourite holy war>) zealots. Groupthink prevails, news gets filtered to what you want to hear, and you lose again. Double whammy: you have more focused venues online, so you can easily filter out all opinions you disagree with.

Indeed, you lose thrice with online media because your right to sue for libel, slander, fraud or even malfeasance has been stripped away from you. The onus is on the reader to verify sources, crosscheck, etc. Some people think this is a good thing, but I refer you to paragraph 2. The sources you are likely to check against (if you bother) are contaminated either by your own selection or by theirs.

But, alas, these distinctions turns out to be false. Old media is just as biased, narrow and irresponsible.

What we must conclude, then, is that all media have the potential for crap. That has to be true. They are all created by humans and humans produce mounds of crap for every ounce of gold.

The advantage of new media is that it is new, unbounded, free of conventions. That gives it a fighting chance to build something that works. I certainly hope it succeeds. I'm certainly doing my best to make it work.

"Look! You're free! Go, and be free!" and everyone hated it for that. --r

Confusion and then some blabbering (3.28 / 7) (#2)
by duxup on Thu Oct 26, 2000 at 06:09:07 AM EST

I'm a little confused as to what (other than NYT) qualifies as print media. What, in this article, qualifies as "print media"? Any publication that's printed? If The Register was printed would that qualify? Or are you just addressing the traditional large news organizations themselves?

Assuming your addressing the traditional large news orgs here's my opinion. If your not . . . then this is irrelevant and I want the last 3 min of my life back :-)

I see a mix of both sources being used, and that they both complement (and point out flaws of) each other. Example: K5's articles themselves often link to the NYT or similar sites to establish basic facts to start a discussion.

I don't see sites such as this any more an accurate news source than traditional media. Many are just as quick to declare themselves experts or allow personal bias and/or ignorance to skew the facts. Some even make it to the front page *cough* "GNU's "freedoms" taking away MY "freedoms"" *cough* and then even the discussion continues with just as many fools supporting it. Heck, I just slanted this post with a personal bias regarding the "GNU's "freedoms" taking away MY "freedoms"" article. Wow, all those " are making me dizzy " " "

When it comes to specific technical data like benchmarks and such I would suggest the traditional media never did hold the attention of anyone who had a first clue of what it was about. They had already abandoned it long ago and were directing others away as well.

In my opinion people often go to such traditional sources for news regarding things they don't know about. Things like world news that's just occurring and such information. They will always serve that role. I do believe that there will be a shift toward more topic specific news sources and some form similar to K5 may serve in that role.

Traditional vs new media (3.50 / 4) (#3)
by Sunir on Thu Oct 26, 2000 at 06:36:34 AM EST

I think print media is a bad term. Instead, let us distinguish between traditional and new media.

Even that dichotomy is too simple. It's best to consider three axes: static vs. dynamic; passive vs. active; dimensioned vs. hyper.

In the static/dynamic axis, we have on one extreme content that does not change. It is generated and that's it. On the other extreme, we have data that has a bad case of the Heisenberg Uncertainty Principle. It changes all the time, probably just from you looking at it.

Note that television, although ''moving'', is considered static. Talk radio is dynamic, though.

Along the passive/active axis, we have at one end content that is owned by some person or corporation. That content is generally presented to you as is. You just read it, watch it. It is there to be consumed and that is it. On the other end, we have content that you take an active role in creating. At the extreme, we have truly collaborative media.

Finally, we have the dimensioned/hyper axis. Media with high dimensionality is limited to how it is presented. Television, radio, newspaper are all basically what they seem to be at the surfcae. Hypermedia, on the other hand, adds connections between the presentations. Hence the "hyper": it cuts across dimensions.

The newest, hottest, funnest media are all dynamic collaborative hypermedia, with heavy emphasis on the collaboration. The traditional media are anywhere else in the space.

"Look! You're free! Go, and be free!" and everyone hated it for that. --r
[ Parent ]

I disagree. Film at 11. (2.16 / 6) (#4)
by Precious Roy on Thu Oct 26, 2000 at 06:54:40 AM EST

Being in the print media myself (as a copy editor) I have quite a bit to say about this.

But I can't right now, because I'm at work right now and will be hit with four-five stories to work on in the next five minutes, and therefore cannot write a well-reasoned response just yet.

Speaking for the Tories, as it were .... (4.18 / 16) (#5)
by streetlawyer on Thu Oct 26, 2000 at 07:15:51 AM EST

I'm unconvinced by this. For one thing, I have to ask the following question; which of the arguments above about "collaborative media", could not have been made about Usenet?

That's the trouble. Rusty's characterisation of authors on kuro5hin misses one important category:

"You're either the experts on the subject who are knowlegeable and motivated enough to enlighten the rest of us about it, or you are people as bewildered as everyone else, who have done some work to try to enlighten yourselves and are willing to ask for more information". Or, you're zealots or advocates, who don't know as much as you think you do, but have a theory of the world (usually involving Open Source) which explains everything. Anyone who's looked at the story queue over the last couple of days will have seen a lot of good stuff, true, but also a fair bit of ill-informed but superficially authoritative comment and at least one story which looked suspiciously like a disguised advertisement. And that's on kuro5hin, the only weblog I'd even remotely consider the possibility of thinking about getting actual information from.

Basically, the case for print media is as follows:

1) Capital. I'm in the financial business, where your trust in someone is proportional to their investment in the deal. The New York Times has a huge amount of investment in their franchise, so they have much more to lose by lying to me.

2) House style. If I don't like the NYT, I can avoid it. I, personally, get my facts from The Economist, my comment from the Manchester Guardian, my rumours from the English version of FAZ and nothing at all from the FT. The point is, that because these papers have a consistent house line and style, I can be reasonably confident that if I like one of their articles, I'll like the others. This isn't the case with collaborative media, when you have to deal with a vast variability in the quality and spin of different articles.

3) I think your comments about the quality of writing in most newspapers are misplaced. It is really much less easy than you think to write readable copy to a deadline, without slipping into the deathly op-ed prose of an Eric Raymond or the sloppy flippancy of a Rob Malda. Which is not really a criticsm of either of these two (maybe of Raymond), but an observation that to read a whole newspaper made up of either would be pretty painful.

I think the real choice is between on the one side, "always know slightly less than the average copydesk slob, and a day later to boot" and to always know slightly less than a randomly selected Internet loudmouth, whenever he chooses to write about it. Collaborative media are a lot more fun than old media, but I'm not sure that the amateur model for information-gathering is quite ready to dominate yet.

--
Just because things have been nonergodic so far, doesn't mean that they'll be nonergodic forever
Re: Speaking for the Tories, as it were .... (4.00 / 6) (#9)
by ajf on Thu Oct 26, 2000 at 08:57:14 AM EST

Basically, the case for print media is as follows:

1) Capital. I'm in the financial business, where your trust in someone is proportional to their investment in the deal. The New York Times has a huge amount of investment in their franchise, so they have much more to lose by lying to me.

How so? They have a lot to gain from lying sensationally if they can get away with it, because big news is good for the franchise. Where they have a lot to lose is not from lying but from admitting they lied - if they set it to one side and all but pretend it never happened, even though they may be caught, it seems they benefit from the big story without suffering for the lie.

There is a case for money in media, though - the NYT has resources to investigate a story that amateur media just can't do. Whether or not the big media businessess choose to do this, of course, is another question - if it's just as profitable to print lies, half truths and celebrity gossip, why would they?



"I have no idea if it is true or not, but given what you read on the Web, it seems to be a valid concern." -jjayson
[ Parent ]
Good points (3.60 / 5) (#12)
by Precious Roy on Thu Oct 26, 2000 at 10:09:36 AM EST

The point is, that because these papers have a consistent house line and style, I can be reasonably confident that if I like one of their articles, I'll like the others. This isn't the case with collaborative media, when you have to deal with a vast variability in the quality and spin of different articles.

Excellent point. Think for a second, about all the articles you've (collective) read on this site. Think about how many were good (and by good, I mean well-written, not necessarily on a topic the you like) and how many were obviously not even proofread. Pretty big disparity, I'll bet.

Newspapers are more "stable" because all the stories have to follow the same rules, and unlike here (where they're either taken wholesale or thrown at entirely) they can be tweaked easily to conform. Those reporters who don't follow the stylebook either learn fast, or find themselves looking for work. As one of my journalism instructors told me, "Don't ever make anyone else's work harder than it has to be."

I think your comments about the quality of writing in most newspapers are misplaced. It is really much less easy than you think to write readable copy to a deadline, without slipping into the deathly op-ed prose of an Eric Raymond or the sloppy flippancy of a Rob Malda.

Here here. Not only does the reporter have to write readable copy, the city desk has to read it and poke holes in it, the copy desk has to read it, poke more holes, write a headline, and figure out where it's going to go (and fit), all in the span of a few hours.



[ Parent ]

Proofreading (3.50 / 2) (#18)
by Sunir on Thu Oct 26, 2000 at 02:12:12 PM EST

It is incongruous with collaborative media for the final copy to not be editable by others. Think about what this would mean for an open source project: someone would submit a hunk of buggy code and that would be it. No one could fix the bugs. You could only submit a whole new hunk of code to replace it or tag the code with a list of patches that the end user would have to manually apply.

Nonetheless, with the current weblog model, once a story or a comment has been submitted, they are unalterable. At least by the general public. But, if you want fewer mechanical errors and better prose, you should let the many eyes, brains and hands of your readership help you.

Of course, I'm pushing towards universal editing. Which isn't a surprise for me really, but I think it's the best, most rational choice.

The main objections are naturally individualism vs. collectivism (How dare someone rewrite what I said?) and security. The former is meaningless: it's collaborative media, ain't it? The latter is tougher, but the wikis seem to work fine.

"Look! You're free! Go, and be free!" and everyone hated it for that. --r
[ Parent ]

How much editing is too much? (3.00 / 1) (#27)
by Precious Roy on Fri Oct 27, 2000 at 06:30:55 AM EST

My problem with universal editing is that people are essentially on the honor system to make changes tat will still allow the original article to accurately reflect the author's thoughts. What happens if the article is edited to the point where the author no longer believes his/her handle should be attached to it? Currently, there is no "self-kill" for submissions...

Personally, I'd like to see, at least, the ability to edit and kill one's own articles in the submission queue. Such editing would obviously have to be flagged, giving people the opportunity to change their vote if they so choose.

I know it's not a perfect proposal, but it's something that's been mentioned before and may be worth considering.

[ Parent ]

Peer Review (4.00 / 1) (#28)
by Sunir on Fri Oct 27, 2000 at 06:58:02 AM EST

I agree, the honor system is insufficient. That's why you use peer review and other soft security means to prevent content swizzling.

"Look! You're free! Go, and be free!" and everyone hated it for that. --r
[ Parent ]

There's really no difference (2.16 / 6) (#6)
by farmgeek on Thu Oct 26, 2000 at 08:42:17 AM EST

There's not a huge difference between online and print media other than presentation. Which would explain why you can access most of the traditional print media onlice now.

Really, the model used here and in other weblog style sites is not very different that that used in many untraditional printed magazines where reader contributions are the bulk of the magazine. The only thing that the online versions give is the ability to see stuff that never would have made it into print, and that is a product mostly of the lower barrier to entry with online media.

Face it, media is media is media.


Oh and one more thing (3.77 / 9) (#7)
by streetlawyer on Thu Oct 26, 2000 at 08:46:24 AM EST

Rusty characterised the process of print media thusly:
A small number of people whose main expertise consists of putting words on paper[1] mishear the evasions and sugar-coatings of the representatives from the PR firm of Glossover and Passoff, add some incorrect attributions, and sling it off to the front page.
Which is perhaps true, but how will collaborative media protect themselves from this. With Kuro5hin or Slashdot, Glossover and Passoff can just write the story themselves and get it posted, cutting out the middleman. Don't fool yourself that you'd be able to see through this either; or even if you could, what about all those other buggers voting on the stories? As a poster below points out, the Karma Whore phenomenon should clear up any delusions of grandeur on that point

In any case, although a lot of shameful stuff gets through into newspapers, you really have to work on one to see the welter of shit that the journalists protect us from. It's not really as bad as all that.

If collaborative media ever does come to dominate over print media (to use rusty's terms), you betcha that the PR agencies will adapt. Hell, I'll even set up my own agency to exploit the new channels. And I'll be hiring Signal and spiralx before the competition manage to snap them up.

First Post!, as they say down at Glossover and Passoff.

--
Just because things have been nonergodic so far, doesn't mean that they'll be nonergodic forever

Don't forget... (2.00 / 1) (#25)
by vsync on Fri Oct 27, 2000 at 02:26:50 AM EST

Anne Marie. She seems to be the up-and-coming karma whore on The Other Site. From what I can remember, most of her posts are quite insane, but there was one that deserved its +2, Funny.

I wonder if the term "karma whore" will ever be referred to in mainstream media?

--
"The problem I had with the story, before I even finished reading, was the copious attribution of thoughts and ideas to vsync. What made it worse was the ones attributed to him were the only ones that made any sense whatsoever."
[ Parent ]

That sounds like fun :) (3.00 / 1) (#26)
by spiralx on Fri Oct 27, 2000 at 04:32:25 AM EST

If collaborative media ever does come to dominate over print media (to use rusty's terms), you betcha that the PR agencies will adapt. Hell, I'll even set up my own agency to exploit the new channels. And I'll be hiring Signal and spiralx before the competition manage to snap them up.

That sounds like an interesting idea and it'd be a hell of a lot of fun - almost like trolling for a living :) And the scary thing is, it might even be viable in a few years...


You're doomed, I'm doomed, we're all doomed for ice cream. - Bob Aboey
[ Parent ]

I respectfully disagree (4.00 / 9) (#8)
by Carnage4Life on Thu Oct 26, 2000 at 08:54:14 AM EST

This reminds me of Jon Katz's articles on new media on Slashdot. Interesting that rusty and Katz seem to think alike. :)

Anyway the problem I have with new media or collaborative media is that they have little or no accountability or source of credibility. For every Transmeta article or Wen Ho Lee story you can find in print media there are corresponding web message board stock scams or extremely innaccurate articles on Slashdot.

With print media you have the reputation of the magazine backing up the article as well as the promise of an editorial process (no matter how lax, it exists). Contrast this with the web were anybody with a web browser can claim to be an expert in a certain field or even impersonate knowledgeable people and you will see why announcing the death of old/print media is premature.

No matter how popular collaborative news becomes most people will still want to get their news from a trusted and vetted source instead of a glorified soapbox/rumor mill. This may change if collaborative media begin to use some sort of editorial process (rusty's hands-on approach with posts on kuro5hin is a start) and create a framework for printing retractions/debunking innaccurate articles then I'll begin to suggest that old/print media may be on it's way out.

NOTE: When I say old media, I'm also counting their online counterparts like CNN.com, New York Times online, ZDNet, etc.



Only True If Audience is Knowledgeable On The News (3.33 / 3) (#14)
by Carnage4Life on Thu Oct 26, 2000 at 10:25:41 AM EST

The difference between a dead-wrong story in the NY Times and a dead-wrong story on slashdot is the reader feedback.

This is only true if the audience is knowledgeable of the news being discussed and refutation is easily accessed. This is true of the RedHat story which is a news article that is basically the results of doing a bug search on a website which anyone can do but how many articles are that easily refuted?

I admit that the Red hat example is a bad case since it was easily refutable by anyone with a web browser while stories that the target audience either is not knowledgeable about (e.g. stock scams on message boards, anything too technical, and in the case of Slashdot any article about Microsoft) are not so easily refuted.

Specifically in the case of Slashdot, the less knowledgeable readers have their opinions molded by misinformation spawned by similarly misinformed authors. The problem with this is that online forums are such a closed environment that it is harder for a voice of reason to prevail against the general tide of recrimination in an innacurate article than it is in a similar forum in an old media site (CNet or ZDNet message boards for instance).



[ Parent ]
NYT Archives (3.75 / 4) (#16)
by caadams on Thu Oct 26, 2000 at 11:59:29 AM EST

If the author of the "Verification" comment had spent a few minutes checking the online NYT Archive (try "Wen Ho Lee", newest first), they would have found several replies in the editorial section. I counted 8 published replies to the September 26th NYT editorial about the coverage, and several others covering other aspects of the case.

Personally, I didn't read much about the original case since weapons lab security is not my primary concern. I am interested in "media issues", however, and I read the NYT criticism and replies closely. In my view, the NYT reply was appropriate--the editors admitted shortcomings and the need for more sources for some of the key material. Hopefully they will continue to remember that government sources still lie sometimes.

Finally, like another author here, I highly recommend The Economist. I would be very interested to hear about other news sources that are consistently better than the New York Times.

[ Parent ]

Now it's 11 (4.70 / 10) (#11)
by Precious Roy on Thu Oct 26, 2000 at 09:57:05 AM EST

Translation: the print media is dead, and the corpse is starting to stink.

Dead in what sense? Money? Reputation? Sorry, the paper I work at isn't lacking in either of those things as far as I know. People still buy our paper (in fact, our circulation is creeping up slightly), and still respect it.

The print media is big, slow, and dumb.

If you mean in the respect that it doesn't have the instant distribution of the Internet, then yes, it is. That may not necessarily be a bad thing, as I'll illustrate later.

Your standard gargantuan news empire is composed of 200 tons of flab surrounding a tiny pea-sized spark of intelligence up in the penthouse.

If by "flab" you mean the people who put the paper together, then I (as a copy editor) am 150 pounds of that flab, thank you very much. Also, not every newspaper is a "gargantuan news empire." Granted, it takes quite a few people to put a major newspaper together (advertising, marketing, editorial), and large chains are often impersonal. I work at a paper that isn't a part of one of those chains, and I at least know the names and faces of everybody in the newsroom after only having been here a couple of months.

And if by "the pea-sized spark of intelligence up in the penthouse," you mean the publisher of the paper... well, that person has virtually nothing to do with the day-to-day operations of the paper. I don't even know what our paper's publisher looks like.

The collaborative online media, we're the mammals now, and we're all starting to tap our watches and look up at the sky, with an expression of "that asteroid oughta be along aaaany minute now...".

Funny, I remember as soon as the web came out, everyone predicted the end of print media. Surprise, it's still here. To paraphrase Twain, the death of print media has been greatly exaggerated.

The basic model of media up until now has been "we'll tell you what the news is, and you'll believe us, because hey, we're impartial right?"

While some print media has fallen into this way of thinking, the ideal that we learn is "to show people what to think about, not what to think" is still taught, and adhered to in some places. At least, that's what I learned in journalism school.

A small number of people whose main expertise consists of putting words on paper[1] mishear the evasions and sugar-coatings of the representatives from the PR firm of Glossover and Passoff, add some incorrect attributions, and sling it off to the front page.

I think you have grossly misrepresented the process of story-writing here. Yes, a large number (I once heard around 50%) of stories begin as a press release. However, to claim that the reporter simply retypes this to generate a story does a great disservice to those reporters that go to crime scenes, disaster scenes, government functions, and courthouses for endless hours of research and staring at numbers in an attempt to figure out how these things will affect the public.

Do they have any idea if the story is accurate, or fair, or balanced, or even non-loony? Of course not.

Wrong. Most good reporters are aware of their own biases and make conscious efforts to overcome them. Most bad ones don't, and don't stay at a paper very long. Also, you make it sound like the only person that evaluates a story for these things is the reporter. At most papers, a story is carefully read by at least three other people before it gets into the paper, and stories are often held or killed somewhere along that line for balance reasons.

They're not experts in whatever field they were just writing about.

Obviously you don't understand the concept of "beats." Reporters don't just write willy-nilly about whatever they feel like. Most reporters at a paper, with a few exceptions, are assigned a beat that all of their stories pertain to. Not every reporter runs to the state capitol every time something happens: there are two reporters who specialize in that. There's a health reporter, a business reporter, a crime reporter, a city hall reporter, etc. These people ARE experts in their field, because that's all they write about. Many of them are formally educated in that field INSTEAD of journalism.

Who are you? You're either the experts on the subject who are knowlegeable and motivated enough to enlighten the rest of us about it,

And how are we supposed to know that without the person volunteering that information? I don't know a damn thing about the background of someone who writes a story here aside from what they volunteer. How does that make people who participate here in any way different from a newspaper reporter? At least reporters are required to sign their real names, and are held accountable for what they write by their employers.

or you are people as bewildered as everyone else, who have done some work to try to enlighten yourselves and are willing to ask for more information.

Reporters I know make efforts to understand what it is they're writing about. Ones that don't, don't survive. Once again, I fail to see a difference.

In both cases, the claims propounded can be responded to, or the questions raised can be addressed, adding to the total accuracy and worth of the article.

That's why newspapers run letters to the editor. Granted, they're not attached directly to the original story like they can be here, but it's not like nobody gets a voice to counter the paper.

And before you say "but the paper gets to control what letters run," you're right, but most editorial departments are highly responsible when it comes to accurately reflecting the ratio of criticism:praise they get.

But what we notably don't have here are "pundits."

I see a lot more punditry on the TV news, especially national news in an election year, than I ever see in a newspaper. But I will concede most of them are largely annoying.

Traditional print media is a morass of punditry, arrogance, and ignorance.

I'd remove punditry, and change ignorance to "deadline pressure." Arrogance, to some extent, is there.

Either you can stick to the big news organs, and always know slightly less than the average copydesk slob,

OK, I have to take personal offense to that comment. I work on a copy desk along with six or seven other people, and we are far from slobs. We are expected to be experts on every conceivable topic, within a two-hour time span. We walk in at 6:00 a.m., plan what's going to be in the paper at 7:00, and have to have the thing out the door by 9:45. We can't be perfect, we're humans. We can't hire individual experts to read every story before it goes in the paper, because we don't have the money. The people who work on this desk, quite honestly, have the best well-rounded educations of anybody I've ever known. And even within that, there are "specializations." One guy can identify just about any firearm in use today on sight. I'm the "tech guy" (duh). And so on.

If you ever get a chance, watch a copy desk in action. Maybe then you will realize the hell these people have to go through every day to meet a deadline, which incidentally collaborative media does not have.

and a day later to boot,

Depends on the paper. I work at an afternoon paper, where we have been able (for example) to report the crash of a Concorde, the bombing of the U.S.S. Cole, and the ousting of Milosevic, and have these papers out on the streets no more than 3 hours after they happened.

Unfortunately, afternoon papers are a dying breed. Last I heard, there were only about a dozen left in the U.S.

or you can join the incoming dinosaur-crushing asteroid of collaborative media[2].

If I see print media being "crushed" by anything, it's more conventional online news media than collaborative. Collaborative sites like this can't do anything about local or even regional news. What if you want national news? Surprise, every time someone posts a U.S.-centric story, most of the people from other countries vote it down because they're not interested. Similarly, U.S. users tend to vote down all but the most bizarre stories from other nations.

If you want collaborative media to "crush" print media, then it's going to have to get a lot more regionalized, first.

Them, or yourselves? Who do you trust?

Personally, I'd rather trust someone who's willing to sign their name to a story than someone who isn't.



Skewered! (3.66 / 3) (#21)
by rusty on Thu Oct 26, 2000 at 05:23:43 PM EST

I concede almost every point you made, and I'm glad you wrote the counterpoint. There is no right answer. My article pointed out the dark side of traditional media, yours pointed out the good side. FWIW, I read the Washington Post daily for the last 6 years (like on paper, delivered to my front door), and I miss it terribly out here on the Godless west coast.

OK, I have to take personal offense to that comment. I work on a copy desk along with six or seven other people, and we are far from slobs.

It wasn't my intention to insult you personally. Just to make the point that most of the news comes from a small number of generalists. While it has reach, it trades that for the possibility of depth, IMO. However intelligent and well rounded the copy desk folks are, they are still only experts in maybe one or two fields. I may just notice this in technology because it's my field, but some of the stuff I've read about tech in the Post has been just laughable. This had to work it's way through all those layers of editors, and still came out flat wrong.

I know people are people, and people make mistakes. I think the system enocurages that though, in this case.

Collaborative sites like this can't do anything about local or even regional news. What if you want national news? Surprise, every time someone posts a U.S.-centric story, most of the people from other countries vote it down because they're not interested. Similarly, U.S. users tend to vote down all but the most bizarre stories from other nations.

If you want collaborative media to "crush" print media, then it's going to have to get a lot more regionalized, first.

And I hope it does get more local. While everyone has seen the global power of the net, few people are realizing that just because it *can* be global doesn't mean it has to be. I would love to see local collaborative news site become more common. I don't see any reason why they couldn't be.

Personally, I'd rather trust someone who's willing to sign their name to a story than someone who isn't.

This the same old tired "no one knows you're a dog" argument. I sign my name to my stories, and provide you with two direct ways to contact me (here, or by email). What more do you want? Want my last name? It's 'Foster'.

Anyway, This article was one side of the issue. I applaud you for ably presenting the other side.

____
Not the real rusty
[ Parent ]

True, the tech stuff needs work (4.25 / 4) (#23)
by Precious Roy on Thu Oct 26, 2000 at 09:18:04 PM EST

I'll admit the tech news in most newspapers is fairly horrible. Then again, our paper doesn't run all that much of it... and when we do, it's often on the Business page, which is one of my assignments, so I usually check to make sure it's not horribly inaccurate. Often things are dumbed down considerably, but keep in mind that a large portion of the average newspaper readership probably doesn't understand, or care, about the differences between Windows 98 and Windows NT.

As for other subjects, I think everybody tries to do the best they can with the time they're given. When the copy desk gets a story at 9:20 for a page that has to be finished and sent to prepress at 9:45, there just isn't enough time to look for anything except the most obvious errors.

Local collaborative news would be an interesting phenomenon, but I'm not quite sure how effective it would be at accurately reporting what goes on... I mean, how many people are actually willing to sit through a two-hour city council meeting and write up a report when they're not getting paid for it?

As for the issue of accountability... my original post, admittedly, missed the point I was really trying to push here... namely that there's a lot more accountability in print media because of one reason: money. On sites like this, the only real punishment for bad stories is not getting them posted. You write a stream of crap, it gets voted down, you can continue writing crap. At a newspaper, if what you're writing is really crap, you either 1)improve, or 2)get fired.

Thanks for your courteous reply. It's nice to know I've conveyed at least a somewhat competent defense of my profession. :-)

[ Parent ]

Two words: (2.00 / 2) (#24)
by vsync on Fri Oct 27, 2000 at 02:22:47 AM EST

At a newspaper, if what you're writing is really crap, you either 1)improve, or 2)get fired.

Fred Moody.

--
"The problem I had with the story, before I even finished reading, was the copious attribution of thoughts and ideas to vsync. What made it worse was the ones attributed to him were the only ones that made any sense whatsoever."
[ Parent ]

You forget (3.00 / 2) (#13)
by tokage on Thu Oct 26, 2000 at 10:16:09 AM EST

How did the media evolve into the seething pit of sensationalism and stupidity it is today? It's the common working Joe, who craves that drivel. The media plays to whatever gets the highest rating. It's a sad, but apparently true fact, that most people's idea of a good news article has a lot of noise and fluff, concerned sounding journalists with no real meat, or reason behind the stories. America is like that. Advertising companies are obnoxious, loud, annoying, but effective. Media companies are the same way. If it didn't work, didn't generate revenue and ratings then they would discontinue it. There are a number of people who would appreciate real journalism, but they're overwhelmed by the masses of people who want to see the interview with the trailer park guy after the tornado. I can see a clear trend in this utter bullshit that calls itself popular media. Television shows like Survivor which play to our voyueristic natures and make us think "what would I do in that situation? are they weird? am I weird?". Shows like the endless barrage of mindless sitcoms with laugh tracks which tell us when a joke has been made, so we can laugh along. News stories about random gratuitous violence with horribly sensationalistic titles and phrases, which people suck up like honey, loud noise to keep them 'entertained' without thinking. I'm in such a state of utter disgust at media, advertising, Americanism, capitalism, and all the other isms. There are a lot of people who feel like I about this, I think, but like I said, the fact of the matter is, it's getting high ratings, people watch and enjoy these shows and news reports. You could feed the average person constant outright lies, and they wouldn't care. Media is so distorted by sensationalism, the images and words they use cause people to react and feel a certain way, which is determined no doubt by a model designed by corporate types to boost ratings.

As far as convential media being obsolete, I'm of the opinion it's all the same, basically. The loud, annoying advertising is just as prevalent on the web, if not even more intrusive as you have to fight to avoid mouse traps and banner ads. The sensationalism still prevails in the titles of stories, and content of the articles. The way most of us are setup, be it a result of our society, or natural inbred stupidity, if it's not loud, brash and possessing a headline which catches our eye, we'll tend to ignore it. I wouldn't be suprised if the report on the Crusoe deliberately ignored the nature of the processor in order to use such a sensationalist, catchy headline. It feels like in some ways we're evolving into some pretty damn dumb beings, and have to be hit over the head to see the obvious things. In all fairness, we are being bombarded by all directions by stimuli, which is why advertising companies go with louder and brighter advertisments, in order to drown each other out, resulting in a chaotic racket which makes me ill. Luckily m$ is working on something which will narrow down the garbage we process, and give us only the garbage they want.

http://www.research.microsoft.com/adapt/
(intensely bitter sarcasm, for those challenged in that direction)

We create these situations in order to get readership, get someone to buy the product, and end up with a society of smiling salespeople, selling us nothing we need and invading our privacy/peace of mind. The future is going to be an irritating place, with technologies like bluetooth combining with advertising to track down exactly where you are, so you can get an advertisment for the nearest resturant. At least we got the Pizza Hut Rocket, that's something.

http://www.pizzahut.com/corpstuff/pressreleases/2000/071200%5Frocket.htm

"Pizza Hut is recognized as the pioneer and innovation leader in the pizza business," said Mike Rawlings, president and chief concept officer, Pizza Hut, Inc. "Our sponsorship of this critical mission tells consumers around the world that we’re always looking to take Pizza Hut innovation to new heights."

innovative.

(more bitter sarcasm, oh yes.)

I always play / Russian roulette in my head / It's 17 black, or 29 red

Traditional media scares me sometimes (4.57 / 7) (#15)
by zakalwe on Thu Oct 26, 2000 at 10:31:34 AM EST

I always get worried about news from TV / Newspapers every time I see a technology article. How do I know that they're getting the facts right on subjects I don't know about? I mean look at the complete nonsense they spout about things I do know.

I once saw a 'special report' on TV about how evil hackers could get your credit card numbers, and about how they had discovered that online banks were insecure. The program basicly turned out to be 'If you run some code you get from an email, then your security is compromised'. Now this is true - and it is an incredibly bad thing that this is news to some people, so presumably I should be glad that something like this gets mainstream attentsion. And I would be if they didn't miss the point entirely! The program basicly went:

Don't trust online banks - here's a script kiddy who calls himself a hacker who'll try to get my password. Look how easy it is for him to get my account details after I've run this executable he's sent me via email and then logged in. Who's fault is this - why it must be the online banks. Lets all complain and demand that they do something.

I don't think I've ever come accross a computer related story on TV or in newspapers that didn't have some glaring factual errors. Some of the reporting on the various virus's like iloveyou drove me to shouting incoherently at the screen and bore anyone in the same room with long pedantic rants about how badly wrong they were. Now hopefully this is all just some general cluelessness about computers and all news is not this bad - but with stories like the one mentioned story I have to wonder.

So will online collaborative media render all this obsolete? I don't think so. I think we'll have a lot more sites devoted to specific topics (eg. Technology and culture, from the trenches), but I think that mainstream media will still exist for mainstream news. Sites like kuro5hin are great, since everyone here has a generally high clue level on the areas we discuss - but in general, the average online poster is at least as likely to get thing accidently or deliberately wrong as the average journalist.

As for punditry, I think online media will only make this worse. It's the technology pundits who seem to be most prevalent here, and the thing that people like this love best is preaching their opinions to anyone they can get to listen - something that the internet makes incredibly easy.

clearly (2.25 / 4) (#22)
by delmoi on Thu Oct 26, 2000 at 08:50:48 PM EST

Napster is a website!

Every time I heard that I wanted to kill someone
--
"'argumentation' is not a word, idiot." -- thelizman
[ Parent ]
Who's turn is it to make the poll? (1.33 / 6) (#17)
by duxup on Thu Oct 26, 2000 at 12:30:08 PM EST

I just couldn't give this a +1. I think it's good for discussion but I'm still bitter over the fact he forgot to make a new poll on the front page.

The difference between news and analysis (4.40 / 5) (#19)
by Sunir on Thu Oct 26, 2000 at 02:46:37 PM EST

A very good earlier response by Precious Roy, who works in the news industry, points out the reality that traditional news outlets suffer from deadlines. The time crunch naturally drives them to simplify and prevents rigorous fact checking. But, even though I think everyone generally accepts this as the cause, many people still won't accept the poor quality as a result. That being said, I think a distinction needs to be drawn between actual news and analysis.

Most of what accounts for poor quality in copy stems from bad analysis by journalists. Indeed, as Precious Roy noted, journalists don't have time to do an in-depth accurate analysis anyway, so why bother? Moreover, he states the journalistic ideal "to show people what to think about, not what to think." Trying to extrapolate the root causes and consequences of an event certainly cross the line into "what to think." And I don't believe that answering "Why?" necessitates deep analysis, just explaining the obvious clear causes.

On the other hand, what journalists really do well is report actual news. That is, recent events (things that are new). This objective fact gathering satisfies the role of chronicler in society, as well as the education of context that is so necessary to functioning as a member of the greater whole. Indeed, this is why I read news each day--so I learn what's changed since yesterday!

Unfortunately, as commercial news organizations need to make money, they have to entice readership. The new journalism (as it is called) panders to this by putting the journalist into the story. Actually, the whole "tell me a story" infotainment drive lies behind much of the subjective fluff.

Now, what I always thought would be cool would be a collaborative, just-the-facts news outlet. As things happened around the world, contributors would submit small write ups describing the event's particulars, focusing on what was actually new. Chains of events could be hyperlinked together if you want the full chronology as well as sibling paths. This would eliminate the phenomenon of articles repeating the same background paragraph over and over for months.

This would allow people to quickly keep up on what their world/community was up to, with most of the bias quashed out from collaboration and the lack of subjective insight. In order to keep people from getting lost in a sea of disconnected, irrelevant information, a separate stream for the analysis and discussion could form elsewhere.

"Look! You're free! Go, and be free!" and everyone hated it for that. --r

WE write the news (3.33 / 3) (#20)
by ObeseWhale on Thu Oct 26, 2000 at 04:24:02 PM EST

The vast majority of people in the world have never heard of Slashdot, Kuro5hin, or on a larger scale, collaborative media in general. The problem is that most people don't really care. WE like to write the news, WE like to analyse, WE like to discuss. But, as the presidential candidate poll shows, WE don't represent the majority of society. Most people out there are just plain happy with being handed their slice of the world every morning, paging through the sports, maybe looking up some stocks quotes, and getting back to their day-to-day lives. Thus I draw the conclusion that while collaborative media will still grow, it will never replace the morning news. Yet there is another element to this story. We need to ask why sites such as /. and K5 are so successfull. The reason is that they cater their stories to a particular audience (generally pro-Linux, pro OSS/Free software, socially left people). The sunday newspaper is aimed at two markets. The first are the big papers (NYT, CSM, WSJ) which are aimed at informing people around the country (and the world) about what happened yesterday. VERY few people read the thing cover to cover, they just flip through and read an abstract of what they like. Not too many people want to take the time to discuss. The second type of paper is your local paper, which talks about local events in a small town, and can spur discussion. But since the paper is at a local level, it is much more stimulating to go talk to the guys at work about its contents instead of talking to the faceless folks online. Thus in conclusion, I find that print media, with all its faults, is NOT dead at all, and won't be. At the same time, the number of people desparate to speak their own voices will rise, and sites such as K5 will definately grow and multiply.

---

"The hunger for liberty may he suppressed for a time; yet never exterminated. Man's natural instinct is for freedom, and no power on earth can succeed in crushing it for very long."
-Alexander Berkman
Collaborative Media: Who do you trust? | 28 comments (28 topical, 0 editorial, 0 hidden)
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