By Bill Kovarik
(Reflections on the NY Times Innovation report, an internal investigation that should have begun more than a decade ago, and that, even today, barely scratches the surface).
In 1911, a young muckraking journalist named Will Irwin began a 14-part series in Colliers magazine called The American Newspaper. He profiled great editors, considered media ethics and described sensationalism and advertiser influence.
The American newspaper, he said, was “wonderfully able, wonderfully efficient, and wonderfully powerful (but) with real faults.”
The main fault was this:
It is the mouthpiece of an older stock. It lags behind the thought of its times. . . .To us of this younger generation, our daily press is speaking, for the most part, with a dead voice, because the supreme power resides in men of that older generation.
Of course, Irwin was writing for a magazine, which, during the muckraking era, was the medium that was actively circumventing newspapers and the AP-Western Union monopoly.
In the spirit of Will Irwin, I started visiting newsrooms to ask how they were coping with the new media about 15 years ago. I was working on textbook called “Web Design for Mass Media” published in 2001. Would the Web help the news business? Would it hurt? Most of all, was it (in the words of Henry David Thoreau) just an improved mean to an unimproved end?
What I found was intriguing, alarming and appalling. Continue reading