Jay Rosen gives a talk about why oh why can't we have a better press corps:
PressThink: Migration Point for the Press Tribe: [E]ven more difficult—and more challenging to the political wisdom of the [professional press] tribe--is that on the terrain where the press has to be re-built, there are people already there... building a kind of alternative civilization to professionalized news and commentary.... One of the most perplexing questions journalists today face is what to make of these determined settlers and their ways, how to stand toward them.... Horizontal sharing is as important as top-down messaging. Readers have become writers and the people formerly know as the audience are flourishing as content producers, expert sharers and self-guided consumers.
This is something the news tribe did not understand went it first went online around 1996. It saw the Web as a good way to re-purpose its content from the old platform... [and this] idea... had a huge intellectual cost. It did not help the tribe understand the ground on which it had to rebuild...
I think that the press corps's flaws are much deeper than that--it's not just that it doesn't understand the new ground to which it is migrating, it's that it did a lousy job on its own ground as well. Consider the Washington Post. I think of:
- Len Downie minimizing and suppressing what his people knew (by, e.g., putting Walter Pincus on page A16)
- Clay Chandler lying to his readers in order to gain street cred with Alfonse D'Amato
- John Harris misrepresenting his sources
- Fred Hiatt hoping his readers are too stupid to read public documents
- Jonathan Weisman unwilling to learn enough to cover his issues reliably
None of these problems have anything to do with "new media." They all consist of doing old media badly.