No, Technology Doesn't Replace Reporting… But Who Said It Did?

from the tools-vs.-activity dept

A bunch of folks have been sending in Roger Cohen’s NY Times Op-Ed basically mocking those who claim that Twitter is replacing journalism. The only problem? It’s not clear anyone is actually doing that. I actually agree with much of Cohen’s op-ed, but it seems to be setting itself up against a strawman that doesn’t exist. No one’s saying that Twitter replaces journalism. Just that it (and blogs and social networks and a variety of other new tools) help change the overall landscape that is journalism. So, when Cohen writes:

For journalism is distillation. It is a choice of material, whether in words or image, made in pursuit of presenting the truest and fairest, most vivid and complete representation of a situation.

It comes into being only through an organizing intelligence, an organizing sensibility. It depends on form, an unfashionable little word, without which significance is lost to chaos. As Aristotle suggested more than two millennia ago, form requires a beginning and middle and end. It demands unity of theme. Journalism cuts through the atwitter state to thematic coherence.

I agree. But I don’t see how that says anything bad about Twitter or participatory journalism at all. In fact, it just reminds me of why the larger ecosystem allows more wonderful things to happen thanks to these new tools. Of course there’s still an important role for distilling all of the info. Of course there’s still a huge role for professional journalists. I don’t think anyone denies that. But that’s not a condemnation of Twitter or the fact that it’s being used by many as a part of the journalism process. It just highlights how there’s a bigger ecosystem of data and information for the professional journalists to distill. And it would be great if they did that instead of spending so much time fretting about the rise of these tools instead.

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Comments on “No, Technology Doesn't Replace Reporting… But Who Said It Did?”

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Anonymous Coward says:

One of our local television newscasters uses Twitter to send links of interest (the important/funny stories), updated local weather, and local sports scores. I wouldn’t necessarily call him a “journalist” since he really just reports on the news and doesn’t collect it that I know of, but following him actually keeps me up to date on local news. Without it I would never have visited that particular site.

Sneeje (profile) says:

Re: Since When Did Journalism Exist Without Technology?

Interesting thought, but I’m pretty sure you could argue with basic language, the oral tradition, tribal dances, etc. that reporting predated technology.

The whole point of language is to “tell other people things” isn’t it.

I would think it would be more accurate to say that technology revolutionized distribution of reporting, which encouraged modern journalism.

Lawrence D'Oliveiro says:

Re: Re: Since When Did Journalism Exist Without Technology?

Sneeje wrote:

…but I’m pretty sure you could argue with basic language, the oral tradition, tribal dances, etc. that reporting predated technology.

Which is where the difference between “blogging” (aka “gossip”) and professional “journalism” comes in.

Steve (user link) says:

It's about how they treat the source...

First, I would add to the definitional piece on Journalism that is requires a dedication and a commitment to fact-finding and objective relaying (reporting) that comes through professionalism.

I have heard more than one discussion from Leo Laporte and the rest of the TWIT gang talking about how twitter is how they find out things. They rely on the tweets of others to tell them what is interesting, what is news, and what they might like.

They call this “crowd sourcing” but I am not sure that it actually “gets there from here.” This approach relies on someone else to actually read, and bring back, actual news stories for them. This falls apart when the twitterverse, or at least all those that you follow, stop finding news, and simply rely on each other to echo it.

So, I believe both are correct. Twitter hasn’t replaced journalism yet. But when people stop seeking news the discussion will still ring, but ring hollow.

Ben (profile) says:

I agree, Twitter is not bad in that way. I think Twitter is stupid but that does not make it bad.

Journalism is meant to convey themes. Enough themes together and you have a news source.

Twitter can convey thoughts, enough thoughts together can convey a theme to be sure, but using twitter to write a story would be like buying single sheets of paper. It is possible but if any other method is available, it is immensely preferable. Perhaps buying a whole stack or writing a proper article.

Twitter is not an anti-journalism device. It is good for conversation type stuff or taking notes, or other single thought stuff. Either way though, if it provided news better than journalism, so what? If that were the case sticking to journalism to avoid the better choice would seem to be somewhat unintelligent.

Dave (profile) says:

Semantics can make fools of us all...

and especially those who scream the sky is falling because they heard a clunk in the dark.

Mr. Cohen seems confused as to what is *journalism* and what is *technology* and how they relate to each other. He should not be comparing twitter to journalism but rather lead type to electrons. Neither relates directly to the quality, accuracy, or timelyness of news content. They are merely two methods of proliferating news.

Actually, the ease with which almost any moron can begin spreading his or her own perseption of news has convinced me to avoid the howling of the mobs using the new electronic delivery and return to more tradional sources of, well, propaganda disguised as news.

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