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Monday, October 10, 2005

The New York Times' Keller Says Blogs Can't Match Mainstream Media's "Journalism of Verification"

Jeff Jarvis notes a Business Week account of a recent speech by The New York Times' Bill Keller to the Association of National Advertisers in which he compares the respective traits of mainstream, traditional journalism and bloggers.

Unlike bloggers who practice a journalism of "assertion," Keller contended that mainstream media organizations like his perform "a kind of civic labor" by deploying "a worldwide network of trained, skilled" editors and reporters who "witness events" and describe them according to "a rigorous set of standards." And while performing this civic labor, the mainstream media goes about its business practicing "transparency," or, as a math teacher might say, "we show our work."

I know, I know, it is sad to read such comments from the editorial leader of the "newspaper of record," especially considering his frank concessions earlier this year about the depth to which facts and opinions have become so inter-mingled on the news pages that even long-time readers find it hard to distinguish the two. His remarks sound very much like those of the man whistling in the dark to bloster his confidence against the gremlins he knows are out there in the shadows.

Rather than responding point-by-point, though, how about we all simply email Keller with a suggestion that he read James Surowiecki's "The Wisdom of Crowds." Perhaps then Keller can begin to grasp why his far-flung network of mostly Ivy Leaguers even on their best day cannot hope to match the immense news-gathering machine that is the Blogosphere, with its millions of knowledgable observers and experts enabled to concentrate their collective wisdom and experience on one or many stories simultaneously.

No, the Blogosphere is not there yet, but it has been clear since the 2004 election that we are witnessing the emergence of a wholly new media that will sooner than later displace even mainstream media giants like Keller's newspaper. To put it in automotive history terms, the Blogosphere is at about the point where Henry Ford introduced his Model T, but it won't take bloggers nearly so long to get to the Ford GT of today.