Matthew Yglesias: the Internet effect on news is good, there’s more of it
I like where Yglesias goes with this, and of course the parallels to the music business are unavoidable but that’s another post. Yglesias’ take is simple; as he puts it “American news media has never been in better shape. That’s just common sense. Almost anything you’d want to know about any subject is available at your fingertips.”
Just today Paul Krugman wrote a post – The Good Web – about journalistic standards in an Internet age too:
What I want to talk about instead is the effect of the Internet on the quality of reporting, which I believe has been overwhelmingly positive.
Pundits like Samuelson seem to long for an age when wise men, from their platforms at major news orgs, sifted truth from falsehood and delivered sound judgment to the masses. The trouble is, that age never existed. I read a lot of economics reporting in the pre-Internet era, and by and large it was terrible. In part this was because the reporters and pundits often knew little economics — in fact, there was a sort of bias against having reporters with too much expertise, on the grounds that they wouldn’t be able to relate to the readership. In part it was because there wasn’t an effective mechanism for checking facts and interpretations: a reporter or pundit could say something that everyone who knew anything about the subject realized was all wrong, but those with better knowledge had no way of getting that knowledge out in real time.
Let me give an example. A couple of years ago Samuelson dismissed the relevance of Keynes, because conditions have changed; these days we have lots of debt, whereas
When Keynes wrote “The General Theory of Employment, Interest and Money” in the mid-1930s, governments in most wealthy nations were relatively small and their debts modest. My guess is that in the pre-Internet era, an assertion like that would simply have sat there; economists would complain about it in the coffee room, but that would be it. In this case, however, the whole econoblogosphere immediately pounced, pointing out that Britain’s debt/GDP ratio in the 30s was actually much higher than it is today. (Times policy, by the way, would have called for a formal correction. Oh well.)
The point is that real journalists, as opposed to the idealized picture of the way things used to be, benefit from the ability of knowledgeable non-journalists to get their knowledge out there, fast.
And coincidently, the New York Times website suffered an outage yesterday. What then for the news? Well they turned to Facebook to post their top stories as Facebook Notes. Bingo!
The Oregon Media Group should take note.