Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Old vs. new media: the fight over the share of a shrinking pie

By Yong Kim

Several years ago, photos were considered fact. The saying used to go "the proof is in the picture." It was the smoking gun. But now in the digital age, photo manipulation software like Adobe Photoshop allows people to change the original image to look like just about anything.

In an age of new media and digitization, the lines of reality, fiction and professionalism have been blurred.

What gives a professional journalist writing for the daily paper a leg-up against the citizen journalist blogging on his or her computer at home?

It's primary information versus secondary information, Fleming Meeks, editor of Barron's Magazine, said.

Reporters get information directly from the source, whether that is from a person or document. Bloggers on the other hand will most of the time make a post with referred information obtained by an article or reporter who gathered the data.

The second- or third-tier reporting is the fallacy for bloggers, Meeks said.

The current dilemma of news is the competition between traditional journalists and average citizens reaching audiences with the same news information.

The piece of pie news organizations has been fighting for has shrunk, and continues to shrink with competition from new media. News companies like the Christian Science Monitor and U.S. World News & Report has moved exclusively online due to the ailing newspaper industry.

Many traditional news organizations have adapted to this new era of digitization. Most newspapers and T.V. broadcasters have online counterparts full of exclusive and original content visitors can find separate from what is already offered.

Still, however, many news companies are still struggling to keep afloat the tidal wave of new media that has, in many ways, leveled the playing field and reality of where and how information is accessed.

“[The biggest current challenge in media law is] trying to figure out what the hell to with the digital environment,” said Michael Botein, a New York Law School’s professor of law specializing in media.

The problem with citizen journalists or bloggers is that they don’t adhere to the same journalistic standards reporters do, he said.

Sure, new media like blogs are more personal, interactive and personal compared to, say, an article from the NY Times. But that same blog probably isn’t as credible or reliable as the story reported in the NY Times. But traditional journalism like the newspaper still has some serious disadvantages.

A paper that runs on a weekly, biweekly and even daily basis would hardly be able to compete with an online news blog that runs on a 24-hour news cycle.

Why wait a day or week for you to read the news when you can get it this very minute online?

So when the pros and cons of each side are cancelled out, who will turn out victorious? Or will either of them be left standing when the smoke clears? Will it be some kind of hybrid?

John DeNatale, director of local programming for Thirteen/WNET, one of the largest PBS programs, said the next fight would be on the fight of authenticity.

But so far, the media experts and those working in it we have met does not seem to have a definitive answer as of yet.


  1. Yong, good information here. I would say that our meetings over the past couple days have reassured me. After hearing Botein say this afternoon that those left after the dust settles will be the ones who can write, who can report and who have the credibility and credentials to hold down a job, I felt a little better. Despite the problem of the pie shrinking, those of us in the media business who can take photos, put together video, blog and be mobile journalists in addition to writing are positioned at the front of the line to get a slice.

    -Derek Casanovas

  2. I agree. I've observed from our meetings thus far that the difference for professional journalists is a matter of standards and developing credibility - that's what will set publications apart online or in print. An independent online news blog can follow similar journalistic standards and build a successful following. The form doesn't matter near as much as the substance, as we learned from Michael Oreskes at the Associated Press.

    -Jasmine Linabary


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