Jeff Jarvis contends that President Bush’s Thanksgiving trip to Iraq shows how irrelevant the networks have become:

In this age of transparency — of constant cable news and C-Span’s unblinking eye and instant online wire reports and mobile alerts and full transcripts online and more video here and weblog links to coverage everywhere and automated Google news searches and, in sum, the commoditization of news — the role of the newsman has utterly changed … but that news hasn’t caught up to the newsmen yet.
It used to be, we depended on them to tell us what is happening (and some prided themselves on doing it better than others). Those days are over. Toast. “What happened” is the commodity; we can find out what happened anywhere anytime.
The pressthink — if I can borrow Jay’s term — evident in this tale is of pressthinkers still believing that we need them to report this news and that they stand in the position of gatekeeper and newsfeeder and grand informer. They don’t want to admit that’s over.
Bush could have put a webcam on his jet and we all would have watched. He could have put pix up on a weblog and we all would have clicked.
The press crews add very little value to that as things stand now.

That’s only true of live news coverage. C-SPAN hasn’t exactly overtaken the other networks–watching unfiltered news is boring and too time consuming. Most people want the edited version, which requires news judgment.

Further, most of the major news outlets have transformed into part news, part analysis. Really, it’s the talking heads that differentiate the networks, not the camera angles they choose for live events.

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James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm veteran. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.


  1. Gabe Posey says:

    Excellent point James. I think that’s the number one reason Fox is a popular news network. It gives an openly differentiated point of view. It’s not about facts, everybody has those. It’s not about how fast the facts come because everybody is just about the same speed. It’s about viewpoint. It’s about how the news relates to your particular flavor of bias. And yes, CSPAN has yet to show itself to be more than political voyeurism.

  2. bryan says:

    I agree, and add that a lot of news that is served by the “media” is local. Jarvis forgets that from his vantage point in the Big Apple, where all news is *big* news.

    So no, it’s not *over* on a local scale.

  3. Jeff Jarvis says:

    I agree with all of you: Real reporting still counts. Local really still counts. But camera-holding in a Presidential event? Commodity.

  4. James Joyner says:

    Jeff: Agreed. The only thing they can do in these things is hope to squeeze in a question with the prez or, at least talk to some of the troops and gauge their reaction. There’s value in those things. Holding the camera gives them something to do other than standing around, I guess.

  5. kevin arnold says:

    If the “major news outlets” have appeal for their blending news with (sic)”analysis”, condensing actual news to soundbytes so as not to be time consuming, and that it’s really the talking heads that make the difference in what program to watch, then why does a major news outlet like Fox continually bombard its viewers with it”s “straight news, you decide…no spin zone” sloganeering. Seems like C-Span is talking the talk and walking the walk.

  6. James Joyner says:


    I agree that Fox’s sloganeering is silly. But news isn’t about simply transcribing events or showing them live and uncut. It never has been, really.