Working the Media Umpire

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“Working the umpire” is an old phrase from when the traditional media writ large was seen as a professional media — objective, tough, investigative, and impartial. This media was all about sunlight, and while opinions and subjectivity sometimes played their roles, everyone took the hits like a champ. Newspapers factchecked themselves, for fear of factchecking one another.

What’s more, the readers cared about being informed, and detested misinformation.  Not so in today’s media marketplace.

The first media outlet — blogosphere, MSM, a hybrid between citizen and professional journalism, or otherwise — to resolve this wins.  Right now, I don’t believe there’s too many bloggers or MSM outfits that politicians or pressure groups respect… for the right reasons anyhow.  Unfortunately, it’s selling papers or getting “hits” (but never visits and time spent on the site; bad metrics are easier sells than good ones) that governs, and rarely a focus on demographics or quality.

When you sell yourself for a dollar figure, there’s a name for that… and it’s not journalism.  In fact, it’s the business model spun on its head.  One would think that a quality product would outpace junk cheaply bought, and I’m certain there are people who would peddle such wares.  Just don’t expect to walk out with a reputation intact or the respect of peers.

It’s easier to sell out and play ball (or turn tabloid) than it is to be responsible, sure enough.  But with the MSM facing down dwindling revenues and being doubly impacted by a reputation of subjectivity, I can’t help but think there’s a sizable portion of the public begging for quality reporting and willing to pay for the larger view.  Weeklies are doing well for a reason, local papers as well.

We’re close to finding the long-term strategy for the survival of newsprint, but a good part of that will be determined not only by technology.  Reliability and credibility will count.

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