The New York Times’ David Carr reflects on what he perceives as the “vanishing divide” between mainstream and digital media, following the move of media writer Howard Kurtz from the Washington Post to The Daily Beast.
Carr addresses the evolution of web journalism, which he says is not only changing the way news is collected and presented but also the way it is valued by audiences. The brand, he says, is no longer the priority.
On a journalistic level, the new playing field is more even. Many people see the news in aggregated form on the web, and when they notice a link that interests them, they click on it with nary a thought about the news organization behind it. Information stands or falls on its magnetism, with brand pedigree becoming secondary.
More and more, the dichotomy between mainstream media and digital media is a false one. Formerly clear bright lines are being erased all over the place. Open up Gawker, CNN, NPR and The Wall Street Journal on an iPad and tell me without looking at the name which is a blog, a television brand, a radio network, a newspaper. They all have text, links, video and pictures. The new frame around content is changing how people see and interact with the picture in the middle.
Nicholas Carr has an interesting piece on Nieman Reports discussing the speed of news consumption online and the impact on journalism.
According to Carr, “skimming” of news is a threat to serious journalism, which requires “deep, undistracted modes of reading and thinking”.
On the web, skimming is no longer a means to an end but an end in itself. That poses a huge problem for those who report and publish the news. To appreciate variations in the quality of journalism, a person has to be attentive, to be able to read and think deeply. To the skimmer, all stories look the same and are worth the same.
The practice turns news into a “fungible commodity”, he writes, where the lowest-cost provider “wins the day”.
The news organization committed to quality becomes a niche player, fated to watch its niche continue to shrink. If serious journalism is going to survive as something more than a product for a small and shrinking elite, news organizations will need to do more than simply adapt to the net. They’re going to have to be a counterweight to the net.