The Missing Link?

December 28, 2008

In terms of blogging, Jeff Jarvis sagely advocates doing what you do best and linking to the rest.

With information overload on the net, why not link to sites with better material or technology, and stick either to the things you know inside out, or have exclusive knowledge about?

A point reiterated whole-heartedly by sports writer Rick Waghorn, the brains behind, a programme based on football, but facilitating his wider vision; to enable local journalism to flourish.

While his ideas are potentially intriguing, in practise his concept does not seem to be catching on, and Waghorn has already had to abandon two fledgling projects.

In fairness to him, the current economic climate can’t be helping much, and in theory both Jarvis and Waghorn are barking up the right tree.

But the problem with this attitude is it regurgitates content. If, as Waghorn promotes, big news organisations like the BBC trade better quality interviews with stories they haven’t the manpower to cover from local media, it follows that invariably you will keep seeing the same material – interviews, footage – on different sites.

And without a healthy sense of competition within the media, we could be moving back into the very era of journalism we are currently trying to detach ourselves from; the monopolisation of the media by a chosen few.

Robert Peston is a prime example. Widely known as the journalist of the financial crisis, Peston boasts unrivalled contacts, exhaustive knowledge and credible insight. Millions link to his blog – why say it when someone else can say it better?

Consequently he enjoys a fearsome presence in financial journalism. And although it would be unfair and untrue to accuse Robert Peston of single-handedly causing a recession, with God-like stature he stated: there will be a crisis. And it was so.

It is difficult to compete with such a fountain of knowledge. And whilst changes in the media industry which encourage journalists to specialise are in so many ways a good thing, as Nick Davies maintains in his book, Flat Earth News, this can also contribute to churnalism. If we are not careful, Davies argues, the free-for-all edge will be taken out of journalism, and thus, its integrity.

The web offers journalists the opportunity to tap into an enormous wealth of content and this is changing the way they collect information. Additionally there is a growing thirst for specialist journalists from readers whose expectations have risen because of the in-depth information already available on the internet. 

Using the example of Peston, those without his array of contacts can gain a useful insight into the finacial market by linking to his blog. But a balance must be struck so this technology can be used in a creative and thoughtful way.


3 Responses to “The Missing Link?”

  1. Robin said

    The thing about Robert Preston is that every dog has its day. Todays expert is tomorrow’s pundit and the day after tomorrow’s has been. Its easy to be smart but I wonder where Preston has invested his money in the last 18 moths – where does he bank ? think of George Soros who has forgotten more than Preston ever knew about financial success – Soros invested in Lehman Bros weeks before they went to the wall. If experts know so much about where the stock market and where the financial world is going why aren’t they all millionaires ? The same ith the football pools – if experts were always right Littlewoods would have been bankrupt 50 years ago. Some have the humility to recognise this ( see Anatole Kaletsky ). Frankly anyone who writes intelligently and with some humility is worth reading, and there are lots of those, lots can do it and no one should be put off by reputations.

  2. amyandrew said

    That is an interesting point, and we should certainly be careful about relying too heavily on ‘the chosen few’.
    I absolutely agree with you; the beauty of the Internet is that it offers us information and views which before now weren’t available. News industries haven’t had to take on board direct criticism/interaction from their readers to this extent, and I for one celebrate such changes!
    Waghorn’s idea is to promote interchanging multimedia so local journalism can keep afloat, but whether or not this can work is debatable, for just these reasons.

  3. Adam Hall said

    Without a journalism degree behind me, my knowledge is somewhat limited but could it not be argued that ‘the chosen few’ are what have led us to this point. As you suggest, using a term which I have never heard before but find remarkably intriguing, ‘churnalism’ and the idea of free speech combined with the internet means that everyone can have a say on current events, the past and the future. However, ‘the chosen few’ arguably give us fresh arguments and ideas whereas the ‘churnalists’ give a different spin on already expressed ideas. This is not to suggest that local journalists do not have often interesting and new arguments, but with respect to national issues, how can when the information is so widely publicised and read, the influence of ‘the chosen few’ not filter down into the arguments of local journalists. This may lend itself to the growth of the aforementioned churnalism.

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