“The growth of blogs and online communities seems to be contributing plenty in the way of opinion, of which there’s already plenty and not much in the way of facts. This is creating a brand of journalism in which it doesn’t really matter if you get things wrong.
Again, it’s becoming all too clear at the Telegraph, whose online business plan seems to be centred on chasing hits through Google by rehashing and rewriting stories that people are already interested in. Facts are no longer the currency they used to be.”
I know that Jeff Jarvis and other new media boosters will race in and tell this guy to get with the programme, shape up or die, and stop being a curmudgeon. But they are wrong. They should read that sentence about the Telegraph’s business model over and over again, because it is the true nature of frontline journalism now.
Is that the journalism we want? A journalism where journalists never leave their screens, but instead endlessly rewrite stuff in order to chase page views? A journalism where a strident, fact-free opinion is worth more than something that digs into the meat of a story and finds new gems there?
It used to be true that 80% of a journalists work was rehashing – other people’s stories, press releases, feeds, whatever. But it was the other 20% which added value, because it was based on writing stories which were unique to you, from your sources. Now that 20% has been taken over by writing opinion instead, because opinion is cheap and – if you write something controversial which readers can argue with – attracts page views.
Again, it’s worth asking: Is that the journalism we want? If it is, then fine. But we have to be aware that in moving to that model we will be losing something valuable. Calling people curmudgeons for pointing that out is silly.