Monday, June 26, 2006

to believe or (maybe) not

I went to a business lunch last week where the panel discussed blogs and how they are—or already have—spawned a whole new kind of "consumer journalism". Because the panel included a TV news director and a Seattle newspaper editor, they spent most of our lunch discussing the importance of ensuring that blog readers could discern between “real journalism” written by traditional journalists, based on valid research and sourcesand “consumer journalism”, written more from hearsay or as personal opinion. And in other cases, written from a radically biased and agenda-driven viewpoint (like Fox TV News).

I believe the average person is discerning enough to distinguish the difference. And we all know that even highly respected traditional journalists have made huge judgment and reporting errors. But it got me thinking: If most magazines and newspapers are currently produced by professional writers and editors for 6th-grade level reading, what’s going to happen when (and if) traditional publications disappear altogether and they're replaced entirely by 6th-grade level writing and research skills, edited only by Microsoft’s Spell and Grammar Check?

Instead of curling up on the sofa with a French-press full of coffee and the New York Times on a rainy Sunday morning, sharing sections and exchanging stories with a "Wow, can you believe this?", I guess me and mine will be hunched over our individual laptops, flinging each other Instant Messages, asking “Wow … CAN you believe this?” Or maybe, “… can you even understand this?”

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