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Jason Pontin

A View from Jason Pontin

D3: Media Dinosaurs Strike Back

I missed this morning’s session on blogging, where Anna Marie Cox (also known as “Wonkette”) spoke—apparently without obscenity, unusually for Wonkette. I was crouching in my room, nursing a hangover earned at Google’s wine-tasting last night, a very penitent crocodile…

  • May 24, 2005

I missed this morning’s session on blogging, where Anna Marie Cox (also known as “Wonkette”) spoke—apparently without obscenity, unusually for Wonkette. I was crouching in my room, nursing a hangover earned at Google’s wine-tasting last night, a very penitent crocodile indeed. Actually, that’s a fib: I woke early this morning, and did some housekeeping for Technology Review. Then I dedicated 30 minutes to learning some Sanskrit irregular verbs and meditating on a highly technical passage in Kant.

Speaking of truth in media… I am listening to Peter Kann, the Chairman and CEO of Dow Jones, Don Graham, the Chairman and CEO of The Washington Post, and Tony Ridder, the Chairman and and CEO of Knight Ridder. Add a Sulzberger from The New York Times, and you would have the men who control US News Media. Their views on blogging? Well, they don’t like it one bit, of course. Their argument, stripped of the distaste they have for the phenomenon of one-to-many publishing, is that the choices of editors, the expertise and objectivity of writers, and the responsibility of management, combine to create intelligent, accountable news reporting. It was left for Walt Mossberg to point out that even if that were true (and recent fabrications at many publications might suggest a more complicated reality) , the reading public simply doesn’t think much of reporters. Readers think that journalists are dishonest, ambitious, lazy, politically motivated hacks.

Why is this the case? I think it has something to do with 20 years of Republican attacks on the “liberal media elite,” and something to do with a generalized skepticism about the possibilities of human objectivity—but that is the subject for a longer, more essayistic posting. In any case, the dinosaurs had no constructive suggestions about how to win back the reading public’s trust—but they were all extraordinarily bitter that readers will pay more for a cup of coffee than they will for a newspaper. About this last pont, Mossberg was insufficiently quick, or insufficiently an economist, to say something about the rules of supply and demand.

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