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This article was published on January 12, 2010

Study Claims That Newspapers, NOT Blogs, Still Dominate The News

Study Claims That Newspapers, NOT Blogs, Still Dominate The News
Alex Wilhelm
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Alex Wilhelm

Alex Wilhelm is a San Francisco-based writer. You can find Alex on Twitter, and on Facebook. You can reach Alex via email at [email protected] Alex Wilhelm is a San Francisco-based writer. You can find Alex on Twitter, and on Facebook. You can reach Alex via email at [email protected]

newsGiven that the world has yet to figure out what bloggers are exactly, I have never held a grudge between journalists that end up in print, and those who write for the internet. Hell, if I could figure that out, I could probably get a book deal.

But on the occasion I do feel that I need to stand up for the team that I play for. Partisanship is hard to avoid all of the time, especially when one side is paying you. There was a recent study by the Pew Research Centre’s Project for Excellence in Journalism (a group that I respect), that said a few things that I have to take objection to.

The two main points of the survey seem to be that, according to News24 “95% of stories with “new information” came from traditional media, mainly newspapers,” and that, “In studying six major news “threads”, the researchers concluded that, 83% of stories were essentially repetitive, conveying no new information.”

I suppose that on a philosophical level, I can object to both claims given that blogs are generally not set up to provide up to the minute news. You will not find a Huffington Post bureau in Baghdad, but you will one with a New York Times sticker on it. I really doubt that anyone is going to disagree with that distinction.

But, there are places where blogging succeeds over traditional newspaper reporting, technology and culture news come to mind immediately. Technology and culture blogging are now so large that the people behind them are either creating their own red carpets (technology), or consistently making the top level of the old elite.

That is a start. Blogging is quite young. Recall that newspapers have been around since 1605. So sure, at the moment just a decade into the rise of blogging, traditional news reporting groups are doing what they do best: run traditional media groups that report on traditional activity. Wars. Elections. Strife.

But blogging is more nimble, much more open than traditional news reporting, and that comes with both strengths and weaknesses that we are all too familiar with.  Back to the two points at hand: “95% of stories with “new information” came from traditional media,” sounds surprisingly vague to me. They even put “new information” in some delicious quotes. Quick, think of the last twenty or so stories that you read that included news information. What percentage of them were from blogs?

That is the point that I want to make today; being a point of genesis of a news item hardly promises that you explain it adequately, or get spread the information effectively. I would wager, politely, that the average reporter for, say, the Wall Street Journal, does not know two points about article promotion. Why bother? They already have  a platform to work from. So sure, do more total news stories start from traditional news sources? Yes, but that matters little when it comes to reach, and influence.

Bloggers take the story bite, the news item, or the wire report, and make it readable to the masses. We take the Reuters article, break it down, split into smaller paragraph oriented pieces, and deliver it to more people. So when they say that “83% of stories were essentially repetitive, conveying no new information,” they are just demonstrating ignorance.

The language is also consolingly condescending, “essentially repetitive.” All this article demonstrates the superiority-complex that traditional news sources have. Small point: most major tech blogs are profitable, employ a good number of full time staff, and are growing. The New York Times is hemorrhaging cash. Unfair to contrast a niche publication to a general interest newspaper? Not really. The internet made the niche possible, then profitable, and it seems that the niche will eventually become the norm. I am not passing judgement as to if that will be better, but it will happen.

So where is that Huffington Post bureau in Baghdad? It will be there eventually. Will it look different than what the New York Times has? Of course it will. If there was no wire story, they would simply have to go and get it themselves. Do they have the money to do that? Probably not, but I bet that all the political blogs could swing the cost of a few bureaus together. See the point?

Studies like this, it does seem, emphasize the last few things that traditional media can do, and denigrate a few of the most important things that blogging can do. Both miss the point. A full picture is a fair picture, and this is hardly either.

So when looking at this report, I actually leave with my chin one notch of elevation higher than before. I play for the team of the future, that does it in real time. Is that the future? I would bet on it.