State of the News Media

For now just a quick pointer to the Project for Excellence in Journalism’s “State of the News Media,” an analysis of the state of journalism in the United States in a variety of media (network news, cable, newspapers, blogs, alternative media, etc), which I came across most recently via Lost Remote. The Project for Excelelnce in Journalism took what they call a look at “a Day in the Life of the News,” in which they examined how audiences might get news over the course of a single day. It’s an interesting approach, although I’d argue that it might have some limitations, especially for alternative media where articles or research might be part of a much larger context.

In the Lost Remote entry, Steve Safran records many of the more interesting results. They note that network news audiences continue to decline in numbers, even as their audience gets slightly older. At the same time, NBC abd CBS were praised for efforts in making news reporting more transparent through such online tools as CBS’s “Public Eye” and NBC’s “Daily Nightly.”

But their “day in the life” approach to blogs misunderstands how blogs fit within news media culture. First, they report that they “examined seven blogs, selected to offer a range of types, so as to closely examine the subject matter discussed, the places bloggers get their news, the level of reporting that exists, and the relationship with readers and with the mainstream media.” While the blogs they chose are among the most widely read–and therefore potentially more influencial–I have to wonder if this approach actually corresponds to how blog readers and writers actually read blogs. The seven blogs they chose–Daily Kos, Eschaton, Little Green Footballs, Instapundit, Talking Points Memo, Crooks and Liars, and Power Line–also offer very little diversity (do I really need to link to them?). Far from a range of types, these blogs seem remarkably similar in their focus on national politics from a partisan perspective (even if those political perspectives are all over the map).

They note that these blogs tended to focus on the same issues as the mainstream press, which is generally true, but again, such a focus closes off other forms of “news” blogs that might focus on specific issues (one quick example: Lost Remote’s reporting on media and technology). They do read each blog closely and make some good points about the “triggers” for each post, including Instapundit’s tendency to link pointers to other blog posts. And they are right that many blogs do not offer what might be regarded as “original reporting,” but I’m not sure that’s the point of all of the blogs they analyze. I don’t intend these comments as a defense of blogs but instead want to suggest that blogs and their role in the public sphere have not been fully defined and that to read them in terms of newspaper and TV journalism doesn’t quite work.

Update: Susie at Suburban Guerilla also addresses this analysis of blogging. Again, I think that focusing on the Seven Big Blogs skews the survey considerably and doesn’t take into account the practices of news consumption and production associated with blogging.

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