from the pshh-obviously dept
We’ve seen this before. Whenever something happens that people don’t like and they need a quick repository upon which to place heaping amounts of undue blame, they always seem to choose the internet. Who do we blame for murders? Ghost stories on the internet, obviously! Why is that batshit celebrity’s reputation in the pooper? C’mon, all the thetans point to it being the internet’s fault, of course! Your South American government is experiencing a bit of the old rebellion-time amongst the citizenry? Yo soy internet (ed: Tim, you never took Spanish in high school, did you?).
But, typically, when somebody swoops in to blame the failings of one thing on a more internet-y thing, there’s at least some tangential relationship. Those ghost stories were on an internet site after all, and that celebrity’s antics were as well. And it’s not like rebellions don’t actually use internet services to coordinate protests. But what Edward Kosner of The Wall Street Journal managed to cobble together is truly amazing: high-profile failings in print media recently, notably the Rolling Stone University of Virginia rape story debacle, Newsweek getting the inventor of bitcoin wrong, and the traditional print media’s complete failure to report on the known rape accusations against Bill Cosby, are the internet’s fault too, even though the screw-ups themselves were within the print media. Confused as to how this could be? Well, Kosner’s thesis essentially amounts to: this internet shit is, like, totally fast, and print media is trying to print really fast too, which is why they’re screwing up.
To prove how completely unhinged this piece is, take two sections and put them side by side. Take, on one hand, the accusation that print journalists failed to report on Bill Cosby:
And the vastly experienced author of a new 500-page biography of Bill Cosby managed to blow the lead: to leave out detailed accusations by more than a dozen women that the beloved comedian had drugged and raped or otherwise sexually molested them.
And put it alongside his assessment of the real problem:
Quite simply, print editors and their writers, and especially the publications’ proprietors, are being unhinged by the challenge of making a splash in a new world increasingly dominated by the values of digital journalism. Traditional long-form journalism—painstakingly reported, carefully written, rewritten and edited, scrupulously fact-checked—finds itself fighting a losing battle for readers and advertisers. Quick hits, snarky posts and click-bait in the new, ever-expanding cosmos of websites promoted by even quicker teasers on Twitter and Facebook have broadened the audience but shrunk its attention span, sometimes to 140 characters (shorter than this sentence).
Got that? Traditional print journalists failed to report on the splashy story of Bill Cosby’s accusers because they’re trying to compete with the splashy internet journalists and…wait…what? I’m confused as to why Kosner would offer such a complete counter-example to his entire thesis. It must be a print journalist’s thing. I’m just here to be splashy and sarcastic, so let me just say that Kosner is a buffoon and then put this cute picture of a cat in for good internet-y measure.
God bless this guy’s stupid little furry face.
Here was a story made to go viral—doing journalistic due diligence on it might blunt its sharp edges and sap its appeal. As it happened, the Rolling Stone piece was undone by old-school reporting by the Washington Post, which has the resources to do its job only because it is being subsidized by the Internet billionaire Jeff Bezos of Amazon, who bought the paper from the Graham family last year for $250 million.
Phew, thank god for that internet guy and his filthy, splashy, click-bait-y money, otherwise we wouldn’t have had any journalism this Christmas, Virginia. The internet, it would appear, much like beer, is both the cause and solution to all of journalism’s problems. It created the crappy Rolling Stone piece, then it fixed it too. It’s almost as though the internet isn’t really the controlling factor here, only the occasional trappings of lazy journalism. Sometimes that happens on the internet and sometimes it happens in print. All this is really driven home by Kosner’s concluding paragraph, which appears to have been written as though all the preceding words had never been uttered.
The new, disruptive pressure of digital publishing on what has come to be thought of as traditional journalism isn’t going to ease anytime soon. Those who are owners or workers in legacy publishing have to understand that they can survive the onslaught—and perhaps eventually thrive—only by maintaining the rigorous standards that once made these publications not only respected but trusted by their readers and advertisers. Desperate times call for disciplined journalism.
In other words, the failings described above are all to do with the journalists in those instances failing their own standards, not because of the scary, super-speedy internet. Come on, WSJ, you guys have editors over there, yes?