Tuesday, May 15, 2007

Not just Romenesko, of course

I don't want to give the impression that Jim Romenesko's sins are his alone.

Other journalists are just as guilty. They write about the New York Times or the Washington Post and present the struggles they find as the struggles of "the industry."

Please. The news media contains many industries and does many things. It serves many markets. Reporters and editors and photographers and bloggers exist in cities other than New York and D.C. Their work will continue, whatever becomes of the name-brand institutions.

Monday, May 14, 2007

Is Romenesko bad for journalism?

Jim Romenesko's site harms the news media.

Let me say that again, in case any of you missed it: Jim Romenesko's site harms the news media. It's not the only negative force, of course, but that doesn't excuse it.

Let me take a step back and acknowledge that I, like everyone else in journalism today, can't help but read Romenesko's media news blog. I began in the summer of 2001 and continued for years. But I want to stop.

Here's the basic reason why:

Romenesko keeps us from doing our jobs.

That's bad, bad, bad. Journalism derives its credibility from covering the news that affects everyday people. Journalism's basic function is providing accurate information and communicating it in a pithy way. Romenesko interferes with that function.

His blog focuses on individuals who work in the media. So the focus shifts from the stories we do to the people who cover the stories. Who cares about beat reporting? Let's debate the importance of Katie Couric or Bill Keller. Self involved? Check. A distraction? Check.

Romenesko also presents the national media as an entity. If its on his blog, it's news. So a plagiarizing college reporter sits beside a disgraced media executive, a reassigned columnist and some nonprofit report.

What do these things have to do with each other? Nothing, except appearing on Romenesko. That's enough. They also divert our attention from a central point of journalism:

It's local.

If you don't work at the New York Times, Washington Post, Wall Street Journal or USA Today (and that covers the vast majority of active journalists, if you can believe it), your primary job is covering your particular area. Its personalities, its disputes, its very nature.

Experts in the field say local coverage is the key to news organizations' survival, but who needs an expert to tell you that? If you purchase a newspaper or visit a local website, you want to know what's happening around you.

That also means that the business side of journalism is, primarily, a local business. Some papers and sites continue to do well in that local business. But you wouldn't know that from the constant doom and gloom on Romenesko. Yes, outside forces buffet journalism. But there have always been threats to our mission -- and news folks kept doing their jobs.

Romenesko threatens that. The blog portrays a single, monolithic journalistic entity plodding aimlessly toward its own destruction. Then it provides a forum for people to complain about that plodding. Then people complain about the complainers.

What does this have to do with journalism? Nothing.

Poynter, I'm looking at you.


2010 update

Ha. Oh, my. I still think some of my points here stand up, but of course Jim Romenesko's site isn't bad for journalism. (It may indeed distract folks, but so does visiting YouTube.)

From a remove of three years, I'd say that Jim was, in his way, covering an important story. The news media of the time was too self-involved. That has changed. Folks are finally buckling down and doing the work of creating a new, vibrant media landscape. And that's a good thing.