Friday, November 26, 2010

Myth No. 6? -Dicussion about journalism without snark

Is it possible to have an intelligent discussion of journalism these days without a heavy dose of snark?

There are times I wonder. Recent exhibit: Mark Luckie's "5 Myths about digital journalism" and Andy Boyle's response "Somebody on the Internet is wrong."

Taken together, I think they make a valuable package of reading - for current journalists and for journalism students - and an excellent stepping-off place for some serious discussions.

Luckie, as I read him, isn't saying, for instance, that journalists shouldn't be familiar with the ins and outs of social media or that they shouldn't be familiar with databases and what they can do. You can't be an effective journalist without knowing something about these things because you must be able to a) gather the necessary material in a form it can be best used and b) discuss intelligently how to use it with those who actually have the expertise.

Boyle provides a counter dose of reality, explaining, for instance, that in his times in his current job and past internship past positions at papers in St. Pete and Erie, for instance, the reality has been more of the "jack of all trades" model. In doing that, he helps highlight some real questions, such as is this the best way to do things or are news organizations once again careering into the future more reactively than intelligently - or, perhaps, Luckie is a bit off base when the reality of running a business - including the labor resources you can afford and how to employ them - has to be factored in.

As I said, all worth intelligent and extensive discussion. But Boyd Boyle tends to move to snark instead, which I don't think serves him - or the discussion well. My comment at the end of his post points to one specific thing. Luckie, for instance, says Myth 2 is "Social Media is the Answer." And he starts it out this way, which Boyle quotes:

We’ve all heard it before: Twitter, Facebook, online commenting, mobile check-ins and the like are what’s going to save journalism. The truth is nobody knows what’s going to save journalism. Nobody. Not even the social media gurus.

Boyle's response:
The basic premise of this is flawed, too. Just repeat after me, everyone: NO SINGLE THING IS GOING TO SAVE JOURNALISM. What are people wanting to go back to? A time when one single thing saved journalism? THAT TIME DIDN’T REALLY EXIST (Okay maybe a monopoly in classifieds). But discussion like this is sort of pointless.
Of course social media isn’t going to be THE answer. It’s just one of those things that you can use to help make more people come to your website, which, of course, helps the bottom line. It can also help you brand your product and thus bring more people to your product, whatever it may be.
So let’s all just once and for all stop discussing whether or not it’s worth using social media. Because it is.

But Boyle leaves out the second part of Luckie's post, which is critically important to context. My comment on his site:

Taken together, I think yours and Mark's make a valuable complete package. But I also think you shortchange him on No.2. I don't see him arguing against using social media, but to be intelligent about it. You left out the second part of his post:

"What we do know is that social media can help augment and improve the distribution process of news stories. It also makes news audiences more invested in the development and discussion of news, something that wasn’t possible before the rise of social media. Is this the money-maker that’s going to stem the tide of red ink? That remains to be seen."

In fact, through most of his post, I don't see his arguing against any of that stuff. What I read is someone trying to say let's be intelligent about all this, that too many "truisms" have cropped up that may need just a little leavening.

I think your arguments are good, but your snark is misplaced.

These are important issues. I don't think we have to be ponderous, but a little less snark would sometimes help, too.

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At 11/26/10, 6:33 PM, Blogger Davisull said...

Comments including phrases such as "Repeat after me" are like letters to the editor with the phrase "Let me get this straight." Snark is the whole point. Dialogue is not the point. Acknowledging someone else's point even when it agrees with yours is not the point.

Just like the letters to the editor, snark doesn't make anything any better, but it sure makes the person doing the writing feel good about himself. And isn't that the point of a goodly percentage of blog posts, tweets, facebookings, whatever -- to show the world (and remind ourselves) how smart we are?

Heck, I'm sure part of me just wants applause for being a department store geek.

At 11/27/10, 9:06 AM, Blogger AndySeanBlog said...

A few things, Doug:

My name is Andy Boyle, not Andy "Boyd." I do not currently work at the St. Petersburg Times -- a cursory glance at my "About me" page would've cleared this up. I work at The New York Times Regional Media Group now.

Secondly, the snark is part of my style. I'm sorry you feel it isn't justified, but that's just a difference of opinion. If you can find a way to get my point across that can be somewhat funny and sounds just like me in real life, please let me know.

And thanks for the link!

At 11/27/10, 8:53 PM, Blogger Doug Fisher said...


Thanks for the outpoint about the name. Obviously, I had Boyle mostly correct but forgot to get that one - yet another reason I wish I had an editor. (Also, sorry for the misread about St. Pete being your "current job.")

As for snark being your style, that's fine - when it's appropriate. I love a good dose of snark when, as you point out, it's funny or serves to puncture the gasbags among us.

And I'm all for writing blogs from a POV. Lord knows, I do this one that way.

But style should never triumph over substance, and in this case you allowed it, in my opinion, to misrepresent Luckie's post.

At 11/27/10, 8:59 PM, Blogger Andy Boyle said...

I can understand that, Doug. I guess my main points were more directed at his gross misrepresentation of the role of the programmer/developer journalist in the newsroom. That's what frightens me the most.

I didn't want to post his entire item because, well, people could go and read the rest of it on the links I provided. I didn't mean to misrepresent what he wrote, so it wasn't on purpose.

That website is one of the listiest link baiting link bait j-blah sites out there. I felt someone needed to call them out for their viewpoints, especially when someone has a title that suggests they have a large role in "innovation" at a very large media company.

And lastly, I also have no clue why my post is called me AndySeanBlog :)

At 11/27/10, 9:21 PM, Blogger Doug Fisher said...


You did make excellent points. And all such blog posts always should be checked against reality - thanks for providing that check!

The whole role of online groups in newsrooms continues to require discussion. I don't think anyone has the answer, and it's interesting to see the sands continue shifting. I thought we had pretty much settled on integrating online operations into newsrooms, but then there's Clark Gilbert in Salt Lake City arguing for separate entities with their own P/L statements, etc. (See more on a video.)

Sometimes it makes my head hurt. :)


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