Slugger O'Toole

Conversation, politics and stray insights

David Carr #NYT and fearless journalism…

Fri 25 November 2011, 4:40pm

If you missed BBC 4′s excellent documentary on journalism in a digital age, then it is well worth the hour and a half it takes to watch on the iPlayer this weekend… (I want the DVD if it ever comes out in that format)…

I remember talking with John Lloyd at the Frontline Club in London a few years back when wikileaks was pouring out all those clipped insights from the US State Department, and recall him saying that we may be in danger of developing something like a cult of revelation…

That is, when a citizen discovers some fact or other about government, or a politician, which was previously hidden, it is too easy to ascribe an importance to that revelation it simply does not have.. in the run up to the last Presidential election, US blogger Mickey Kaus noted some of the effects of this endless speculation and online gossip..

Storyville provides as robust a defence of quality journalism as I have seen anywhere.. When you get a call from David Carr, you’d better have your story straight… no matter what a million blogs are saying. Carr:

…some stories are beyond the database, in some stories people have to hit phones, hit the streets and walk past conventional wisdom.

As someone once said Ian Paisley, he has “a rough tongue like an old cow” and the singular focus and tenacity to disturb mammon, if not the devil.

My own favourite moment was an elegantly handled confrontation with Michael Wolffe of Newser.com at an Intelligence Squared event (I presume in New York):

GOOD RIDDANCE TO MAINSTREAM MEDIA (Full Debate) from Intelligence Squared U.S. on Vimeo.

Storyville extracted a part of the debate, where Wolffe argues…

“…the media is a technology business, that’s what it is… that’s what it’s always been… technology changes, the media changes… after that, it’s over… the News business in this country is nothing to be proud of.. Oblivion…”

Then Carr, gifted story teller, responds…

“Over time, the audience has switched to the web.. the audience that’s worth buck in print is now worth a dime, or a penny on the web… because we end up competing oftentimes against our own work, aggregated.

Newser’s a great looking site, and you might want to check it out, it aggregates all manner of content… But I wonder Michael’s really thought through getting rid of mainstream media content… Okay, go ahead.

And he holds up a print off of Newsers front page with mainstream content cut out…


If you have the least interest in the future of journalism… go watch it… At last, a fearless journalist speaks eloquently on behalf of his own, much put upon, professional caste…

If journalism is to be saved it needs such confident responses to the dismal tide of closures which have been emptying newsrooms from north America, London, Dublin and Belfast. The fight back starts with the confident demonstration of value.

Further reading…

- Sulzberger at the LSE

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Comments (8)

  1. I’m halfway through this documentary, and it is, frankly, excellent. Every reporter needs to see it. I noticed David Simon, former Baltimore Sun crime corr made an appearance. You should have a watch of the last series of The Wire, which he wrote, for a great account of the same industry hand-wringing.

    I’ve a funny feeling I might be burying my head in my hands in 45 mins or so.

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  2. Mick Fealty (profile) says:

    Believe me Gonzo, you won’t. It doesn’t change the trajectory, but it’s wake up call to the enduring value of mainstream journalism. The panel discussion is well worth watching too, even if it is two years old.

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  3. Framer (profile) says:

    Newser is just like the BBC and its ubiquitous websites. They copy a story from the newspapers, rewrite it sometimes, and then publish. And we are obliged to pay for the Beeb on threat of jail!

    Despite having 7,000 journalists, 90% of the BBC’s news output is churnalism.

    Just look at their websites at the weekend – no news, no coverage of stories of substance; they have to wait until the papers and press statements start coming out on Monday.

    When all the newspapers have gone bankrupt and the rival TV news stations like Sky are seen off, we will have a soviet system and only ourselves to blame.

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  4. Mick Fealty (profile) says:

    I don;t think the problem the BBC has is that it produces churnalism. Programmes like Hearts and Minds prove that that is simply not true.

    Online however it is hampered technologically, in the sense that most of it’s best stuff is out on YouTube. That to me proves it is managing its online content very badly.

    We, for instance, used to record very high quality content from Stormont live and Hearts, but then most of it was taken down by request from BBC London.

    It’s fair enough, no complaints our end. But that content is no longer available to the public in any form now. You might as well put a pay wall up, because too much of the content we get from the news sites is otherwise available from RTE, the Irish Times, UTV or PA.

    Also, Sky seen off? By whom? Sky was a privileged monopoly player on the satellite spectrum almost from the start. Unlike the terrestrial channels they have virtually no legal requirements to produce their own indigenous programming themselves.

    Anyway, back to fearlessness in journalism as an axiomatic necessity?

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  5. Framer (profile) says:

    Mick

    One swallow maketh not a summer.

    It was BBC news, derivative chat shows and its news websites I was complaining about that and the horrifyingly awful BBC World News. But you have to go abroad to view that.

    Hearts and Minds is good but should by now cost very little so why is it such a drain on resources that it may be chopped. So many names on the credit?

    The cuts if you notice are not on staff or perks but on programming and ever will be. It is a unionised public sector monopoly after all.

    Look at RTE running three or four TV channels plus radio on a twentieth of the income and ask how can the BBC squander so much and still have to bring in tainted environmental programmes for nothing and not spot any conflict of interests.

    Sky News loses money and will not survive while the BBC holds its monopoly position. The worst thing is it does not know it and thinks it has a form of divine right to broadcast as it wishes. It rarely apologises not like RTE which must be vulnerable now.

    Anyway no-one cares except David Vance and his Biased BBC website so the world will not change short of the Beeb having no newspapers to parasite off.

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  6. Mick Fealty (profile) says:

    News everywhere is losing money. Sky News is sitting on a raft of cash generated elsewhere in its sport programmimg and more widely in NewsCorp.

    UTV have done a great job in bringing down costs and continuing to deliver high value work (even if it fails to get the recognition it deserves).

    RTE last time Iooked, was running a €40 million deficit, something which by its charter it is not allowed to do.

    Both it and the Beeb have legacy structures that are difficult to reform for the digital age. If it were a private sector player those problems would be solved by giving the licence over to a new market player.

    But private broadcasters have long since abandoned high quality current affairs programming. Bear in mind LWT brought us Weekend World (not to mention the South Bamk Show), a gold standard at the time.

    Does anyone produce radio of the consistent acuity and quality of Analysis? Ive argued this out with Tory friends at the Daily Telegraph. The underlying problem is that the UK market cannot sustain a commercial market for such high quality programming.

    A HBO simply would not survive such heavy weather.

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  7. Mick Fealty (profile) says:

    As an adjunct, I don’t buy the axiomatic assumption that Mr Murdoch is not himself running an effective monopoly himself. I’d have more time for him if he was willing to weaken his own incumbency in favour of new entrants.

    Killing off a state run monopoly to hand it to a private one is what he been angling for.

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  8. Into the west (profile) black spot says:

    I liked that the NYT hired that young blogger who had a finger in every pie.
    Isn’t that roughly what happened to Newt Emerson
    when Irish News offered him a permanent job?

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