Thursday, May 21, 2009

The Upside of Getting Your News from Experts

I was reading the excellent Kassia Krozser's rebuttal to Motoko Rich's recent New York Times article on e-book pricing. Kassia points out in several places how the publishing-beat reporter doesn't really work in the book industry and doesn't understand its subtleties. (Of course, Kassia's post is much more complex because the issue is so complex, and I don't pretend to understand it even as well as Motoko does.)

But then I remembered a time in my short reporting career in which I was assigned the task of calling up a new plant manager, having him explain the process of extrusion to me, and then writing an article about it. I'm quite certain he found a lot to nitpick about the end result. I always felt this way when writing about something I had no hands-on experience with. How much justice was I really doing the subject?

But 20 years ago, people pretty much had to take their truths from the media gatekeepers, even if they were snotty-nosed little English majors like me. How things have changed! Now if we really want to know the facts about something, we can go straight to the experts. We'll no doubt find someone out there blogging about it who is knee-deep in the subject day in and day out.

Of course, with this access comes the need to do your own filtering. How do you determine who the experts are and ignore their occasional erroneous points? How do we know what biases are driving what they are saying? We used to be able to count on the media to do their best to avoid biases and opinion in their reporting, but I think we can all agree that's gone out the window, too. So in the end, traditional journalism is losing its advantage quickly.

As usual, I have no answers. I'm but a grain of sand on the roaring beach that is new media. Hourly my opinions on the evolution of information are picked up, tossed around, and sent back out to sea, only to wash up again, confused.

Hmmm, maybe I just need a vacation?

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