Getting to a sentence that would have been total gibberish only a few years ago.
- New language: 'I need a Twitter for my blog' - George Pyle, The Salt Lake Tribune, 02.12.11
I won’t tell you how long I’ve been at this newspapering dodge. (Just know that I started when a Georgia peanut farmer was in the White House.) But I’ve watched as my chosen profession has been transformed from a license to print money — just open the doors and bill the car dealers and real estate agents for their full-page ads — to an industry desperately trying to figure out how the dinosaurs evolved into birds a few million years ago.
We adapted to the coming of radio and then television by stressing our depth, our insights, and by just sighing when their news departments ripped off our stories without giving credit. (I knew they’d stolen mine when they made the same mistakes that I did.)
Now the broadcasters and the newspapers are in the same boat, watching and, in some cases, scurrying to keep up with, the new media world that brings broadband, multi-channel, high-speed, wireless, infinite selections of sources of information.
First, the articles, photos, box scores and charts that were in the paper go on the Web.
Then we followed the Internet-only media into the world of blogging, loosely defined as a running commentary by a group or individual that combines original material, references to other information on a home website and links to other news, commentary, original sources, reference material, pop culture references and videos of piano-playing kitty cats.
It’s not that different from what newspaper journalists have been doing for 200 years.
We didn’t do things you couldn’t do or know things you couldn’t know. If it was that important to you, you could attend the city council meetings, sit in on the murder trial or the legislative committee hearing, check the math in the governor’s budget, stand on a street corner waiting for a movie star to stroll by.
But who’s got time for all that? We do. You’re welcome.
So I did. Pretty much by myself. So now the Tribune Opinion page blog, State of the Debate, has added those beachheads. If you are on Facebook, search for "State of the Debate." If addicted to Twitter, find "twitter.com/#!/debatestate".
Of course, if an old coot like me can create these channels of communication, so can almost anybody.
What such efforts by journalists have to sell is what the best newspapers and broadcasters have always had to sell. Access. Memory. Time. Most of all, judgment, training and experience that helps us separate the pearls from the swine and give you the respect newspaper readers have always deserved, the respect of not wasting your ever-more-precious time.
Theodore Sturgeon, science fiction writer: "Ninety percent of science fiction is crud. That’s because 90 percent of everything is crud."
In a way, it has become easier to be the other 10 percent, especially when the pros — and the more thoughtful readers who show themselves often enough to make it all worthwhile — are compared to the amateur hours found on many blogs and even on the comment boards that are attached to articles on this and most other newspapers. Incessant skunk fights between "libertards" and "conservacruds" serve no purpose and frighten the smart people away.
Even us old pros, though, treat the new medium a little differently.
Last week, when I blogged off a Tribune editorial that urged the United States government to choose its words carefully in response to the events in Cairo, I used a headline that seemed to fit the ethos of the Web, but that was much too flip for an ink-on-paper version: "For the U.S. in Egypt: Mummies the word."
And when a young congressman I once met, who was beginning to impress observers who previously dismissed him as a lightweight, resigned in a sex scandal that lasted all of six hours (more evidence that the Internet has changed everything), my immediate blog response: "I guess this guy has, well, shed his old image as, er, an empty suit." Again, not something I’d normally commit to paper.
We’re still building this new medium. For the past 100 years, newspaper people have taken comfort in the knowledge that, if something we did today didn’t work, we would do it another way tomorrow. Now, if we choose, we can be happy with the fact that if something we said was a bad idea, we can do it differently right now.
- Why I blog - Andrew Sullivan, The Atlantic
Some useful blogs:
- Wonkbook - Ezra Klein, The Washington Post
- The Conscience of a Liberal - Paul Krugman, The New York Times
- DealBook - Andrew Ross Sorkin, The New York Times
- Frum Forum - David Frum
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