This thought-provoking article by David Henderson of Siegel+Gale, suggests that pressure on main stream media is resulting in bite-sized chunking up of significant news stories. The example here is the CNN headline that summarized all the intrigue of he Scooter Libby trial into four words: Libby Convicted of Lying. (Of course they could have said: Libby Lied.)
The over simplification of complex stories has long been a favorite topic of mine, and I don’t attribute it as much to the pressures of New Media on Old Media as to the intrusion of journalism into the world of entertainment. Entertainment operates by a different set of standards–the premium being on capturing and holding attention–than traditional journalism. Now, of course, the pressures on Old Media is forcing them into ever more desperate measures to compete for audiences–so Henderson is very right about the result.
But the overall impact of the blending of New Media and Old Media may be positive in addressing this. There is no doubt that with 70 million “citizen journalists” writing frequently on almost any and all imaginable topics, far more information and discussion occurs than before. And news readers have access to all that real info and pseudo info very easily through search engines. The result is that each story in its sum can get far, far more coverage than before. Not in the traditional way of the coverage in the hands of professionals paid for by news organizations, but we have seen the weaknesses of this. The weakness of the new breadth of coverage, is that it is not professional and frequently the “journalists” do not have much of significance in new or valued information to add. But, frequently they do.
Add up the increasingly brief news capsules offered by traditional media with all the chatter, discovery, commenting and analysis by millions of blogs and you have more depth than ever. I believe this will result in a stronger fifth estate–but the jury is definitely out on that.