Why Chris Anderson is helping kill journalism…

As journalists, we’re hyper aware of what is happening in our industry right now because most of us, even if we’re in a safe market at a cush job, fear for what the next five, 10 or 20 years hold for us. Every newspaper that fails or magazine that folds is like another grain of sand slipping through the hourglass of our professional lives. And we aren’t sure whether or not, when all the sand has hit the bottom, that we will be able to turn the hourglass on its head.

That’s why when I read an interview from Henry Blodget at the Business Insider’s Silicon Alley Insider with Wired’s Chris Anderson I was so devastated to read what Anderson thought about “journalism,” “media” and the “news.” It wasn’t that he thought journalists do a bad job, that they’ve lost all morality or ethical concern, but that he just didn’t seem to see the value in what it is we do every day. Instead, Anderson stated time and again that social media (Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, etc) is the only relevant form of information distribution because, well, that’s how he gets his “news.”

While it was ultimately pointed out that the information Anderson gets off of Twitter is, in fact, a product of serious journalism by people with actual flip-style notebooks and red editing pens just filtered through a series of (often unattributed) tweets and links, I still feel like his callous attitude should be addressed point by point.

So here it goes Anderson:

1. “I don’t use the word journalism.”

That’s fine Anderson, you don’t have to call it anything you don’t want to. However, it is journalism. What it is that we do, (in case Wikipedia doesn’t have an accurate enough description for you to use) is gather information from first-hand sources, source documents like court records, sale records, documents gathered under the Freedom of Information Act, and numerous other immediate outlets. We then put that information together with background information. We put it into context. We then verify that information and, once it has passed a series of editors, we publish it–online, in print, on the radio or on television.

It is the gathering, analyzing, contexualizing process that is important. That is what makes it journalism and it does still exist. Maybe it doesn’t at Wired, but I bet that at least a large portion of your editorial staff agrees with me, even if they’re too considered for their jobs to say it to your face.

2. “Sorry, I don’t use the word media. I don’t use the word news. I don’t think that those words mean anything anymore.”

Again, Anderson, I disagree. Media has quite a few meanings. There is of course definition which implies a tangible resource like a physical piece of paper, an audio tape, or a video. That is media.

But then there’s also the “media.” There are still people with press passes, writers, editors, copy editors. Some of them even work for you. They may use Twitter and Facebook from time to time, but chances are they are real people, not autobots set up by a computer program in order to distribute information with a randomly generated byline.

Now, I can see where you might think that the “media” is irrelevant in a world where anyone can disseminate information. You can make that argument, but you should probably frame it that way.

3. “The vast majority of news is created by amateurs.”

No. I’m going to openly state here, you’re wrong. News isn’t created by amateurs. I would argue that the role of the amateur varries, but goes a little something like this:

- Amateur observer: This is the case with Iran. People experiencing the protests and the violence were documenting their experiences. That is part of a new story, but not entirely the news. If you have ever read any sort of journalism theory, you’ll remember that news is not just saying what happened from one person’s perspective or even a collective set of tweets, it is putting it all together, putting it into context and providing verification. I can tweet that aliens have invaded my neighborhood, but that doesn’t make it true or newsworthy.

- Amateur distributer: This is where a reader from a news source takes information they deem to be important or interesting and distributes it via email, Twitter, Facebook, Digg, a blog post, etc. They are repeating news, not creating it.

- Amateur commentator: Now, there are a lot of television “news” sources today (*cough Fox*) that are just this, someone who takes in information and spits it out in a different format without verifying, analyzing or contextualizing it. That being said, their opinion does not news make.

While I give Anderson props for letting Wired be innovative from time to time, I’m hereby boycotting that publication. Because, hey, by Anderson’s standards, what they’re doing isn’t important anyway. Right?

- Sweet Olive

Because print is dying…

Don’t get me wrong. I don’t want to see the newspaper, the magazine or the academic journal die, but the reality of modern journalism has come to bear on those of us who rely on readers for a paycheck.

In the spirit of preparing for the harsh reality, I’m going online. You can already find me on Facebook, on Twitter and at the Business Report.

Starting, well, today, you can come here for my latest published stories, news and culture that interest me and blog posts about the journalism industry.

It’s time to document what’s happening in an honest and open way. I want to hear from you, so speak up and post your comments here.

-Sweet Olive