Mainstream media is all, ah, atwitter about major stories that have recently been broken by blogs, as well as all that information flowing freely through social networking sites. Apparently these new media upstarts are not being properly respectful of the dinosaurs of journalism, who now plan to take decisive action – once they figure out what’s happening, that is.
The NY Times, after ignoring the ACORN story for an embarrassingly long time, will now have an opinion media czar who will monitor those bloggy things to ascertain what stories might be deemed worthy of their attention. The czar will of course be forced to remain anonymous to avoid “a bombardment of e-mails and excoriation in the blogosphere.” Those bloggers might be useful, but the czar does need to avoid the possibility of undue contact with and possible contamination by those icky bloggers.
But wait, it gets worse. The Washington Post has forbidden staff to use social networking, even on their personal time.
This, of course, is the stupid reaction of a cornered and endangered animal. Deers in the headlights of a new world that is barreling head on right at them.
Meanwhile, the anonymously written Zero Hedge has broken major stories on high frequency trading, flash trading, and Goldman Sachs. This of course has pissed off the mainstream media, who are now flaming them. A bunch of anonymous rabble rousers have gone and made them look foolish, inept, and compromised. So they’re trying character assassination and sliming after trying to unveil them, as witness a NY Magazine article.
Zero Hedge responds. Here’s a few excerpts. Read the whole thing. It’s principled, intelligent, and dead on target.
The Fourth Estate has spent and leveraged its reputation capital in keeping with the finest traditions of 21st century investment banking. As a consequence, these age-old institutions are quickly for the way of their banking parallels: Bear Stearns and Lehman Brothers.
Ladies and Gentlemen of the media, we would like to make a few points:
1. Anonymous speech is not a crime.
You may or may not be aware that there is a long tradition of anonymous speech in the United States. It did not begin here. Not by a long shot.
2. Your unveiling motives are less than pure.
Demanding the unveiling of anonymous authors is often a pretense for opening the door to personal attacks.
3. The era of personality-centric media needs to end- quickly, and (hopefully) painfully.
The fact that you thrive on the momentum of personality-centric reporting does not mean that we do, or that it is the right kind of reporting.
4. You can’t fight a dead model. (They don’t respond to the sleeper hold at all, and getting caught with one while trying is bad news.)
It is not our fault or our problem that your business model is dead. We didn’t kill it. You did.
5. Take it from us. It’s time to punt.
When you’ve gotten to the point where you are attacking online media in order to boost viewing of embedded video clips of your content, inventing fights with new media to boost ratings, when you are boosting online ad revenue this way, might not it be the time to just cut out the expensive cost center middlemen (we are looking at you- in the eye- stacked anchors) and move to online distribution entirely?
6. Get out of the cycle of co-personality-dependence.
When your biggest ratings and embedded hit counts come from fights between the various gargantuan egos on your anchor desk it should tell you two things. First, that your have become addicted to on-air sideshows. Second, that you have hauled your audience down with you into the blackness of personality-dependence addiction.
One of the things that inevitably happens when someone like Zero Hedge causes as much damage as he has to very wealthy and connected people is that the media will start looking at who he is.
But when you shine a light on Zero Hedge, you’re taking the light off the people he’s focusing on. That’s the primary problem with this kind of activity, and one of the reasons you often see this tactic employed against an uncomfortable news-breaker.
I’m all about Zero Hedge. I think there are a great many things about him that represent an enormous improvement over traditional media, and a real rebuke to the thinking of most traditional editors. I know at most commercial news organizations reporters are told that the public has no appetite for complex issues, and that material has to be dumbed down for presentation to the public. Zero Hedge went 10,000% in the opposite direction and became a huge hit. Readers, it turns out, are a lot smarter than we give them credit for.
Zero Hedge (and Matt Taibbi) have been drawing blood lately with their attacks on the wealthy and corrupt and have made real and serious enemies. They deserve our support.