Tuesday, February 20, 2007

The "ouch" factor

This, from the Los Angeles Times media columnist Tim Rutten, is sobering. He calls journalists to church with a plea for motive self-examination based on embarrassing revelations about their peers in the Scooter Libby trial (Judith Miller, Tim Russert, Matthew Cooper):
The picture that emerges here is of a stratum of the Washington press corps less interested in the sort of journalistic privilege that serves the public interest than in the kind of privileged access that ensures prominent bylines and good airplay.

And in the baseball doping BALCO case (SF Chronicle's Mark Fainaru-Wada and Lance Williams, who accepted leaked grand jury testimony from defense attorney Troy Ellerman; Ellerman then went out and argued that the ensuing publicity would deny his client a fair trial):
To assert any form of journalistic privilege in a situation like that is something far worse than moral obtuseness. Conspiring with somebody you know is actively perverting the administration of justice to your mutual advantage is a betrayal of the public interest whose protection is the only basis on which journalistic privilege of any sort has a right to assert itself.

If it isn't yet clear:
Journalists consumed with a self-interest so strong that it makes them the willing dupes of manipulative sources report what they're meant to report and not the information the public has a right to know.
...both the Libby trial and BALCO case can be seen as the indictment of the kind of journalism that asserts the right to protect its sources, to protect the public interest, but to conceal its own self-interested shortcomings.

So now you want me to take video?

So goes the lament from the mainline print reporter. Let me do what I'm good at...writing. Don't make me take pictures, too. Shoot video, no less.

I point out this piece, "You Must be Streaming," from New York Magazine because it addresses just this moment in journalistic history. And in the writer's view, any journalist brings tools to the table that no amateur can match, regardless of how rough the beginnings. Writer Kurt Andersen:
Whereas the YouTube paradigm is amateurs doing interesting things with cameras, the newspapers’ Web videos are professional journalists operating like amateurs in the best old-fashioned sense.

Calling this a "flux moment," writer Andersen notes how differently The New York Times and the Washington Post are handling their video effort and packaging. At NYT, the two newsrooms are merged; at Washpost, still separated. Times highlights its daily offerings, Post buries under a hard-to-find button, Andersen argues.

The article looks at an emerging video journalist from each newspaper, the Times' David Carr (with Carpetbagger blog and video, shown tripping over red carpets as he does his reporting), and WP's Travis Fox, the globetrotting one-man-band who never appears in his own videos. Two worth watching as the new medium, Web video by newspapers, emerges.

Anderson's point is to highlight this very moment, when it is all up for grabs.
The passionate, improvised, innovative reinventings, as opposed to the final, fully professionalized reinventions, are often the coolest moments in cultural history. Think of movies in 1920, TV in 1955, or public radio in 1980. ... And this very moment, before anyone professes to know much more than anyone else, is probably the beginning of the new medium’s great golden age. Enjoy it while it lasts.

Thanks to Sacred Facts for the tip to this piece.