The changing face of new media

News Media?

News Media?

While some in the news media are arguing over whether or not bloggers are part of the media, at the same time as their own outlets include blogs under the mastheads, debating about ethics, fairness, balance and objectivity…other new media outlets are intent on breaking that paradigm.

News Media?

News Media?

The Atlantic reports on the new media plans of eBay billionaire Pierre Omidyar. Some media people are going to rip their undies when they read this.

The $250 million news organization that eBay billionaire Pierre Omidyar is launching is still taking shape, but one of its characteristics is established: Unlike many American newspapers and TV networks, the startup won’t insist that its reporters observe the conventions of what is variously called objectivity, impartiality, or viewlessness.

This is evident in part because its most famous hire, Glenn Greenwald, has always been outspoken about his beliefs, and subscribes to the idea that“disclosing rather than hiding one’s subjective values makes for more honest and trustworthy journalism.” He’ll presumably keep operating as he always has, perhaps with more resources and editing tailored to his needs.

What’s less clear is how his colleagues and the organization they’re joining will operate. But a clue came with NYU media theorist Jay Rosen’s announcement that he’ll join the startup as an adviser. For many years, Rosen has been a leading critic of what he calls The View From Nowhere, or the conceit that journalists bring no prior commitments to their work. On his long-running blog, PressThink, he’s advocated for “The View From Somewhere”—an effort by journalists to be transparent about their priors, whether ideological or otherwise.

Rosen is just one of several voices who’ll shape NewCo. Still, the new venture may well be a practical test of his View from Somewhere theory of journalism. I chatted with Rosen about some questions he’ll face.  

If that doesn’t upset them then these comments by Jay Rosen certainly will.

What about ideological diversity? The View from Somewhere obviously permits it. You’ve said you’ll have it. Is that because it is valuable in itself? Or is it just an incidental byproduct of hiring the best people you can?

This is something we should dig in on, so excuse me if my answer is a bit long. … I have been a closer observer of diversity efforts within the American newsroom. And I could be wrong, but I think these efforts are founded on a contradiction.

The basic insight is correct: Since “news judgment” is judgment, the product is improved when there are multiple perspectives at the table … But, if the people who are recruited to the newsroom because they add perspectives that might otherwise be overlooked are also taught that they should leave their politics at the door, or think like professional journalists rather than representatives or their community, or privilege something called “news values” over the priorities they had when they decided to become journalists, then these people are being given a fatally mixed message, if you see what I mean. They are valued for the perspective they bring, and then told that they should transcend that perspective.

Compromised from the get go by out-dated conventions?

You’ve joined this venture in part because you believe its upside potential is significant. If it works out as you hope, if things are implemented well, etc., what’s the potential payoff for readers?

I think it’s three things: First, this is a news site that is born into the digital world, but doesn’t have to return profits to investors. That’s not totally unique (Texas Tribune, ProPublica) but it is unusual.

Second: It’s going to be a technology company as much as a news organization. That should result in better service.

What does that mean?

I think technology companies—the good ones—focus more naturally on user experience. This is something we could use in news. Ev Williams, who had a founders role in, Twitter, and now Medium, says that a good formula for innovation is to start with something people want to do and eliminate some of the steps required to do it. I want NewCo to operate in that spirit.

Technology is advancing faster than old media can adapt. The old model is broken and the new model is evolving and adapting…give it 5 years and the clunky cumbersome old media will be broken completely unable by their sheer size to deal with fast moving, nimble and adaptive new media companies.

Readers should follow these developments as I announce them over coming months.

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