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September 29, 2005

Some Bloggers Meet the Bosses From Big Media

"What capacity for product development do news organizations show? Zip. How are they on nurturing innovation? Terrible. Is there an entreprenurial spirit in newsrooms? No. Do smart young people ever come in and overturn everything? Never..."

Yesterday the CBS Building, the one they call Black Rock, was wrapped in yellow crime scene tape, a gimmick to advertise the popular crime scene show, CSI: NY, on CBS Wednesday nights. I was rushing by it on my way to a roundtable at the nearby Museum of Television and Radio. The roundtable was about Big Media, the Bloggers and where the two are likely to meet over the next few years of Web development and cultural change. Which is basically the subject of the book I am writing.

“The bloggers were the usual suspects who write about the issue of blogging, journalism and the media,” said David Weinberger, who was there. “The MSM folks were high-level execs at the usual suspect TV and print mainstream news organizations.” True. (We weren’t a representative group of bloggers, either. No one from the cultural right, no minorities, only a handful of women, no one in his or her 20s. Apply whatever discount rate you wish.)

I was 20 minutes late. As I slid into my seat it took time for my eyes to adjust to the room because they were still on the “emergency” yellow of the fake crime scene tape CBS had wrapped itself in. Black Rock looked sad to be dressed that way. Then I looked around the room and saw three “teams” sitting around in a big rectangle with microphones and a moderator. My team, Bloggers and Net Heads, had…

The Big Media team was led by bosses, people who run news factories, including:

Joining the Bloggers Corps (Bill Gannon included) and the Big Media Bosses was a third team: People actively involved in the migration of the old journalism to the new environment of the Web, including some bosses of the Web operations.

The ground rules prevented quoting without permission, a condition I don’t like and would never request, but some of the big executives need the cover, so we do it that way. You have the cast of characters. Here’s what I heard:

Oh, and everyone said nice things about my weblog.

After Matter: Notes, reactions & links…

Lisa Williams, who blogs at H20town (Watertown, MA, is her home) says in comments:

I beat my local paper all the time. It’s not because I know things first; it’s because I hit Enter first. But at H2otown, I rarely point to articles in the local paper. At first it was because I wanted to prove to myself that I could do better than simply rehashing articles in a paper whose very understaffing was the main reason I started H2otown. After some months, I noticed I didn’t even think about the local paper very much anymore. I had my own sources, my own beats, and a growing community, blogs launched on H2otown by local politicians, including the President of the Town Council.

Lisa to Traditional Media: I’m just not that into you. Sorry — you’re a great guy and I know there’s someone out there for you. Somewhere.

The woman speaks truth, writes beyond well, knows her community, and is totally tech aware. What else can be asked? Check out the rest of her comment and follow her progress.

With Lisa’s H2Otown and Debbie Galant’s we see how blogs are taking over in journalism, not by encroaching on the territory of Big Media, but by entering a territory in journalism where Big Media is nowhere to be found.

Mike Phillips, editorial development director for Scripps-Howard Newspapers, in comments here:

There are days when I’m tempted to gather a few friends, move into a nice town with a newspaper run by one of the slower-moving publishers, start up something that’s digital and citizen-driven and make a nice living picking the big guy’s pocket. If you want to convince them, take a bite out of their revenue.

Yep. I definitely think someone will do that within the next few years. It’s only a matter of where it will happen and when. Scripps-Howard owns the Ventura Country Star, a blogging-friendly local news site. See an earlier letter from Phillips to PressThink: “We need to get serious about Web-centricity.”

Brian of mgoblog—it’s about the University of Michigan Wolverines—comments on this post, in particular: trust and the single blogger:

A blogger is not a message board poster, largely anonymous and indistinguishable from the rest of the chatter on the board. I have a reputation—a brand even—that goes under that banner at the top and whatever trust I have I had to earn by not being completely useless and have to maintain by not slandering people…

Boi From Troy sent out an email soliciting ideas about how bloggers can get the same sort of access that your mainstream media types do. I realized that I didn’t want access…. I’d hear the same things, be denied the same interviews, and sit in the same press conferences. I’d also write the same articles, because access corrupts…

Since I don’t have access, I’ve got to come up with another selling point, a way to differentiate myself from the rest of the Michigan sports media world. This is venting and snark in some portion, but not in whole. It appears that it’s mostly bigass tables… bigass tables that you’ll never see in a newspaper because instead of seeing with their own eyes they’re listening to what someone else tells them.

“I’m not a journalist; that’s the point,” he says. By “tables” he means posts like this, charting the performance of Michigan football. When you really want to understand the game, you go to Brian. This is exactly what Big Media misses with the iconic figure of the “don’t care if it’s true” blogger.

Since I donít have access, Iíve got to come up with another selling point. Exactly, Brian.

Absolutely brutal interview on Hugh Hewitt’s radio show between Hewitt and Brian Montopoli of CBS’s Public Eye blog, formerly of CJR Daily. At issue was this list Public Eye posted, A Guide To The Journo-Blogs, which Hewitt thought slighted right-of-center journalists. Here’s an excerpt:

HH: You’ve got 30 different blogs listed here. 25 of them are center-left or hard left. You’ve excluded obvious center-right people like Jack Kelly and Michael Barone. I don’t think intentionally. You’ve designed the rules to exclude people like me and Michelle Malkin, because you don’t like us, and then you purport to be objective…

BM: You’re on our blogroll, Hugh. How do you say we don’t like you. And another thing. I e-mailed you, asking you to do a critique of our website. We have this outside voices feature. Jonathan Last is doing it. You never got back to me.

HH: I don’t want to do anything for CBS. You guys are like…you’ve got the Plague.

BM: Well, at the very least, you could have written me back. Here I am on your radio show.

HH: I might catch what you have. If you have…If I end up working for you, I’m going to end up being identified with CBS, which has a terrible reputation, because of punk stunts like this, Brian.

The rest. And here’s an e-mail exchange between Hewitt and a mystified CBS editorial director Dick Meyer. Blogger and journalist Lex Alexander of the News-Record in Greensboro in comments: “This is the behavior of someone who’s looking to score cheap points in order to reinforce the myth of the Big, Bad Liberal Media Conspiring to Shut Out Right-Wing Voices.”

Ed Cone in CIO Insight (Ziff-Davis), Rise of the Blog: “The tide of simple, low-cost publishing and collaboration software is rising within companies, whether technology management is ready or not.” (April, 2005)

Michael Conniff in Online Journalism Review: Just what is a blog, anyway? “Defining this variable form is not easy in the highly opinionated blogosphere - nor is it simple in the increasing number of newsrooms that are in embracing blogging.” But he gives it a shot.

Tim Porter wrote a pre-Roundtable post, which gets lyrical:

When I think of the blogosphere, I recall the colorful world maps that hung on the wall of my high school geography classroom. On them, curved arrows and various shapes and sizes depicted the swirling rivers of ocean and air currents that move endlessly, seamlessly around the globe. The Jet Stream, the Gulf Stream, the Alaska Current. The blogosphere is the same — The Thought Stream — moving across geography, beyond nationality, node by node from one individual to another, tying people together in a swirling current of ideas, debate and interaction.

“The national conversation is gone,” says Porter, “replaced by the global conversation.” Porter After digs out some lines of his from two years ago to illustrates another handicap:

To produce newspapers in this manner requires efficient, repetitive action - papers are scripted in advance, before the news happens; reporters are told how long to write, before they cover the stories; photographers are given dimensions of an illustration, before they take the pictures. This way of working discourages innovation and encourages rote behavior.

Yes, and it’s efficient, repetitive mental action he’s talking about too. Like group think, press think is rote behavior.

Bill Quick at Daily Pundit read these notes: “The Lords of Media today are the monks toiling away in their cloistered monasteries, illuminating one manuscript a month, and scoffing at those rat-beggars with their crude printing presses. ‘Can any of those printers illuminate parchment as beautifully and meticulously as we can?’”

Do see Peter Daou, The Triangle: The Limits of Blog Power. An essay reflecting on his time as John Kerry’s point person for “blog outreach” during the 2004 campaign.

I had to improvise my way through the election, trying to reconcile two distinct worldviews. I felt the disconnect keenly. I alternated between informal conversations with a small blogger brain trust—Kos, Atrios, Digby, Steve Soto, Bill of Liberal Oasis, Dave Johnson, among others—and meetings with Beltway stalwarts such as Bob Shrum, Tad Devine, and Joe Lockhart. I attended communications strategy sessions where veteran consultants presented one set of ideas, then plunged into Democratic Undergroundís forums to read thousands of impassioned arguments to the contrary….

Daou found two obstacles: The Internet was so effective at raising money that it wasn’t seen as good for anything else, and “the natural antagonism of the old guard toward the new” led to marginalizing of the “Net roots,” as he puts it. Some of the comments are interesting too. Read it.

Posted by Jay Rosen at September 29, 2005 10:48 PM