The News Business: The Ultimate Control Freak?

Blogging cuts out the middleman for journalists who are used to working through one, two, even five editors before each story gets published. That simple thought gets right to the heart of the problem with the media industry: The news business is too concerned with control and not with content.

I'm certainly not knocking editing -- in fact, I live and breathe for finding a good mistake, which is why blogging can surely instigate my neurosis. I hope that more traditional editing for accuracy is given to blogs in the future. What I am criticizing is content control, or the endless need for editors and news organizations to control the information that people receive as if We the News Business are the omniscient voice. Blogging and user-generated content cuts some of that out.

As a new Nieman Report from Harvard University points out:

In generating story ideas, blogging journalists don't need someone to tell them who the readers are and what they want: They already know, because the readers are on their blogs, telling them who they are and what they're curious about. In this new blogging relationship, editors are the middlemen being cut out.

These past couple of years, I have struggled to understand why some people in the journalism world still seem skittish about jumping into the new user-generated universe of journalism. I used to think it was because old-school journalists just didn't have the skills. Now I realize that it's because they love the control of journalism -- perhaps it's an industry-wide narcissism. Editors and publishers leading the direction of content are especially wary of their dwindling degree of power over information.

It's as if we have all been operating on a stage, and suddenly the audience is taking over. This isn't about you anymore Journalism.

Recommended Media about the Media

You can't read news for more than 10 minutes without reading someone's revelations about the news media and whether it should undergo some sort of operation to go completely digital, or if it can exist for much longer with print chromosomes. Most observations are getting banal in fact. I do read 1,342 articles about the topic daily and here's who I would recommend: Virginia Heffernan (my claim to fame is that I once had the privilege of giving her a tour of Facebook when she was visiting my old newsroom), James Poniewozik (his magazine piece was headlined in the print version of TIME as "mediapocalypse," which will be in Merriam-Webster by 2010) and everything by Jeff Jarvis
(if I had a nickel for how many times this guy has been quoted in every piece about new media, I could bail out the newspaper industry).

A key point in the whole discussion about the struggling media is that it needs to get out from behind the wheel and let the unquenchable thirst for news propel it forward. As Poniewozik writes, "The media business needs to see that the shovel it got whacked with -- the change in the way people communicate and the spreading of that power -- is not necessarily a weapon or a means to make our graves. It's just a tool. Time to start digging."

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