Journalism all Tanked Up

The reinvention of journalism in the digital age is happening, let there be no mistake about that. Yet, despite the promise of crowdsourcing, hyperlocals and even the Huffington Poacher, it’s not as if anyone has figured out how to make newspaper reporting as we know it economically viable on the web. Hence the unending stream of buyouts, closures of foreign bureaus and elimination of news beats.

I recognize that the old print edifice is decayed and anachronistic. Yes, we waited too long to replace it. So now that it is collapsing, does this mean journalism as we know it is disappearing? Well, for some fields, this appears to be the case, as a recent discussion on the state of science journalism indicates. But some fields are also finding welcome mats laid out at other edifices, such as those provided by think tanks.

I find this intriguing, though hardly ideal. But if professional journalistic standards can be transferred over, then perhaps think tanks can help ease the print to digital transition.

4 Responses to “Journalism all Tanked Up”

  1. oso loco says:

    Keith –
    This passage caught my eye –
    it took only a few hours for someone to raise doubts about what the bloggers deliver, given a) the individual perspectives they sometimes bring and b) the lack of reporting (that is, interviewing and research) that often goes along with uncompensated blogging.

    There ‘s some truth to it.  Actually, a lot.  One of the major blogs involved in the Rathergate affair some years ago made the observation that much of the blogging world is dependent on the MSM for it’s content.  Without the MSM, they’d have little to blog about.   And that was certainly true back then. 

    Since then, however, it’s become less true (but still not “untrue”) because other sources have been developed.   There has developed a “hive mind” on the web that feeds the blogs independently of the the MSM. 

    More than that – one of the characteristics of that “hive mind” is that it’s composed of scientists, engineers, historians and housewives (among MANY others) – all of whom bring to the table specialised knowledge – and a collective intelligence – that dwarfs what’s brought by many of the professional writers.  

    I spend very little time on the ultra-liberal blogs because they bring a nasty, whiny tone along with a general lack of knowledge re: history, science or reality.  And they are generally utterly and thoughtlessly dismissive of any viewpoint that doesn’t agree with theirs.  But even that doesn’t mean they have no value whatever – they sometimes do produce a good idea.  And the characteristics I mention above are not by any means universal. 

    But for real value, I go to the comment sections on sites like Climate Audit, WUWT or the Air Vent.   You still get the ignorant loudmouths, but fewer of them – and you get the advantage of a great deal of actual scientific information.  

    This, of course, is the Web at its best – the application of multiple minds from multiple disciplines with multiple viewpoints to any particular problem, subject, whatever. 

    Back to the passage at the beginning here – point b) has considerable truth to it, but overlooks sites like  or some of the milblogs.

    Point a) on the other hand is entirely without merit because it overlooks and/or reflexively dismisses what I’ve called the “hive mind” above.  One would think that some people would have learned some lessons from the Rather scandal.  But I suppose we’re all human, eh?
    As for economic viability, I suspect that some of the blogs that I’m familiar with do very well from the advertising they display.  After all, blogging isn’t likely a full-time occupation for a professional physicist like Lubos Motl (  or the lawyers at Powerline ( – or many of the others on both sides of the political divide, but they get enough support to keep the blog going – and they have the satsfaction of expressing opinions that would rarely, if ever, be allowed in the MSM.  

    I thinnk this is the format of the “new” media – it’ll be interesting to see how it morphs over the next 10 years or so.  And it will. 

  2. Keith Kloor says:

    These other sources you point to are all valid and they definitely part of the new media ecosystem. The milblogs, especially, have become important. Many were essential reading in the early years of the Iraq war.

    I suspect that the media landscape will look quite different in ten years. Us journalists are really just groping our way through at the moment.

  3. oso loco says:

    Keith –
    So are the rest of us.  Groping our way into the future, that is.
    It’s an adventure we can’t avoid.   Well, I guess we could, but I’m not really hot on that alternative. It’ll get here soon enough. 

  4. oso loco says:

    Keith –
    One of the reasons the general media is losing its audience –

    If they can’t/won’t report on this kind of thing, then what use are they?

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