And they also make themselves look silly in the process. This time, it is the dinosaurs of journalism, putting out all the old anti-Web canards. Perhaps we should compile an Index of Old-Journalist Claims similar to the Index of Creationist Claims (on TalkOrigins.org). Two examples this week:
My impression: we're at the twilight of the curmudgeon class in newsrooms and J-schools. (Though they can still do a lot of damage.) You know they're giving up when they no longer bother to inform themselves about what they themselves say is happening. And if their "who lost journalism?" call-for-justice op-ed disappears behind a pay wall so the search engines can't find it, silencing that call online, the beautiful thing is they won't know it happened, and they won't understand why it matters because they never got how Google works in the first place.
It's clown time for the curmudgeons because they've lost the smart people who can save the business the curmudgeons had tried to save by jeering at the stupids and their attempted changes.
Oh, and definitely read the rest and follow the excellent links within. It's as beautiful a smackdown as anything anti-Creationists bloggers can write. Or perhaps even closer to that ideal is this marvelous fisking by Lessig of Andrew Keen's new book "The Cult of the Amateur":
And then it hit me: Keen is our generation's greatest self-parodist. His book is not a criticism of the Internet. Like the article in Nature comparing Wikipedia and Britannica, the real argument of Keen's book is that traditional media and publishing is just as bad as the worst of the Internet. Here's a book -- Keen's -- that has passed through all the rigor of modern American publishing, yet which is perhaps as reliable as your average blog post: No doubt interesting, sometimes well written, lots of times ridiculously over the top -- but also riddled with errors. Keen's obvious point is to show those with a blind faith in the traditional system that it can be just as bad as the worst of the Internet. Indeed, one might say even worse, since the Internet doesn't primp itself with the pretense that its words are promised to be true.
So lighten up on poor Mr. Keen, folks. He is an ally. His work will help us all understand the limits in accuracy, taste, judgment, and understanding shot through all of our systems of knowledge. The lesson he teaches is one we should all learn -- to read and think critically, whether reading the product of the "monkeys" (as Keen likens contributors to the Internet to be) or books published by presses such as Doubleday.
Ooooh, this hurts!
Or, as Ed does whenever asked about the problems of accuracy and trustworthiness of blogs, he has a two-word response: "Judith Miller".
After all, all the Creationists books have passed the mainstream publishing process (image by Robster, FCD).
Check Jason as well.
And Jeff Jarvis...
The tragedy of the old media/new media situation is that, in certain respects, some of the old media people are arguably right; but the old media's response has been the exact opposite of what it should have been in order to take advantage of that. Instead of working to raise quality, they've been working to cut price.
Let us say, for argument's sake, that the idea "trained, experienced, professional journalists are better than amateurs at discovering hidden or complex stories and bringing them to light." is true. It isn't absurd, by any means, and may well be the case. The problem is that old media has, in general, acted as though this is either false or irrelevant. It has rushed to cut costs and appease corporate owners by firing or muzzling its best investigators and reporters, and switching to cheaper and less controversial lifestyle and nonsense. The trouble is that new media will always be able to produce lifestyle and nonsense at lower cost than the old media will(bloggers, flamewars, and funny youtube videos are cheaper than talking heads reading press releases, if not by much).
Attempting to undercut new media is a path doomed to failure. They'll end up gutting all that was best about the old media model, without quite being cheaper than the new media. An amateur may well be worse than an expert; but he'll be better than an expert whose job depends on keeping his mouth shut, or an expert whose salary is only cost effective if his time is spent taking voyeur shots of celebrities. Old media are arguing their superiority, even as they are largely abdicating their responsibility.
To be fair, this might be one of those situations where cost trumps quality no matter what, some commodities are like that; but there is something pathetic about arguing for the superiority of the old media model even as you strip away everything that made it good, and hopelessly chase the new media whose costs you'll never beat. I'm not at all sure that old media can possibly win; but if they can, it would only be by raising quality, by doing things that bloggers can't, by being known for fearsomely efficient and incisive work, even if it costs more. Talking about how bad the new guys are, while letting your own quality plummet, is not good enough.