Magazine article Editor & Publisher

Information Alone Isn't Enough

Magazine article Editor & Publisher

Information Alone Isn't Enough

Article excerpt

Journalistic world still needs its pros

The forms are changing, but the content remains the same: Bringing order to chaos, separating the wheat from the chaff

Journalism has always been a rough-and-tumble world; but there were certain rules of sourcing and cross-checking, standards of editing, language, and grammar that always distinguished establishment from tabloid journalism. And somewhere, in all of this, there was an acknowledgment of the need for context.

So, what does that say about the expanding world of journalists now operating on cable or satellite TV, and soon to be operating on HDTV or broadband or on the Internet? The glory of those new technologies is precisely that they make the acquisition and the dissemination of information a truly democratic process. [E]veryone has always had the right [to call one's self a journalist]; now nearly everyone also has the reach and the opportunity.

I couldn't possibly reconcile a lifetime spent demanding access to information and the right to disseminate it, with now arguing that we should place restrictions on the rights of others to do the same. And anyway, the Internet, in particular, was designed to be immune to precisely that or any other sort of interference. Whether or not Matt Drudge uses two sources or one (or none, for that matter) is -- and should remain -- beyond my power to influence.

What I do believe is that the community of professional journalists has a greater obligation than ever before to lead by example. Information on all the media is now so voluminous that it tends toward the chaotic. We can still serve a critical function in bringing order to information.

The new technologies are all geared toward speed. Speed has always been an important part of journalism; but not to the exclusion of other standards. Traditional journalism requires a sorting out of good information from bad; of the important from the trivial. That sort of commitment and expertise may be out of fashion; but the need for it is greater than ever before.

There are at least two kinds of extreme ignorance. For centuries, we have been familiar with the first kind -- an ignorance that covered most of the world like a dark cloud; an ignorance that exists in a vacuum, where no information is available. …

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