After Day 1 at the National Conference for Media Reform Friday, one young journalist told me that she felt like the enemy. Indeed.
I’ll admit, I wasn’t quite sure what to expect from this conference. Partly because when we talk about “media reform” it’s kind of like talking about ice cream with your cake. Who doesn’t want it?
But, the danger behind that phrase is that the conversation quickly turns into a highly critical one and the conversation turns to media-bashing. But, hey, media-bashing is fun. We all do it. I think it’s in line to become an Olympic sport. Journo-bashing reached crescendo levels with Glenn Greenwald’s comments about the New York Times and Bill Keller And, while Greenwald’s comment about Keller’s “pristine socks” was amusing, his commentary did little to critically analyze the role of the mainstream media in the Wikileaks dumps, the future of such dumps and how they should be handled. It could have been a pretty good conversation.
Journo bashing is cheap.
It’s low-hanging fruit.
And, honestly, it does little to advance the conversation.
Everywhere you turned yesterday, activists were lamenting the lack of a liberal perspective in media coverage. Again, a fairly laughable point but one heard often in the echo chamber here. To those making such claims, go ask a conservative from Texas about what they think about the New York Times.
Listen, we all know what the issues are. But, let’s not spend time journo-bashing. It’s time to look at the Journalism playing field and see solutions and opportunities.
One of the opening panels yesterday was headlined as: “Collaboration Trumps Competition: Breaking Down Barriers Between Citizens, Newsrooms and Journalists.” Some of the smartest, most creative minds looking at the future of journalism were on the panel: Jan Schaeffer, David Cohn, Susan Mernit and Lisa Williams spoke about how those in the audience could collaborate and become a part of journalism.
But, instead, during the question-and-answer session, those in the audience lamented the difficulties in motivating citizen journalists and one attendee even asked about ‘monetizing’ their product. People seemed to be missing the point, and that only continued yesterday.
My hope is that the tenor changes today. There are many forward-looking journalists out there that are experimenting with different platforms and ways to present news. The passion and drive that seems to be present at this conference can be applied to citizen journalism efforts. But, it’s not easy. You can’t just turn on a switch and become a journalist. There is training and procedures involved. There are plenty of opportunities out there but it takes time and effort.
It’s easy to bash journalism. It’s a little harder to get involved with and change the way things are done.