The End of Hard News?

Via Taegan Goddard, I see that Harry Jaffe is proclaiming an age of fluff in the newspaper business.

Today’s news is there is no news on the front page of today’s Washington Post. Not one of the six articles on  page A1 begins with a hard news lead that imparts real news to readers.

Welcome to the new age of daily newspapering, where the actual news of the day has migrated to the Internet or TV or radio or the inside pages of the paper.  Bye-bye to the old  “who-what-when-where-why.”

He’s referring to the Friday edition but, alas, his link goes to the current day’s edition of the paper which, oddly enough, contains several hard news items.

Note to bloggers: Screencaps are your friend.Thankfully, Media Bistro understands this important lesson and provides one, which I’ve expropriated for this post.

Jaffe prints a response from WaPo executive editor Marcus Brauchli which strikes me as pretty compelling:

It’s not news when auditors for the company that once was America’s industrial giant express concern about whether it can survive? Or when the likelihood rises that the government might have to acquire what once was the country’s largest bank? Or that the world’s monetary authorities are scrambling to revive the global economy?The front page was thick with news. News isn’t defined by a subject-verb-object lead sentence. We tell our readers what’s happening, why it’s happening, how it might affect them and what’s likely to happen next.  Kimberly Kindy, David Cho and Blaine Harden did something much more difficult than simply reporting what other said or did. Their enterprise work told you what you won’t learn from other sources, but what really matters. Your definition of news would favor news conferences and press releases.

That strikes me as exactly right.

If I were making decisions for the front page of WaPo, I wouldn’t have given above-the-fold space to the Ohio police rescue story, let alone devoted the space to the photo rather than a write-up.  It is a visually interesting photo, to be sure, but adds no news value.

The Limbaugh-GOP fight is probably not deserving of the off-lede, but it’s certainly newsworthy.  And, given that the industry’s in sad shape financially, I wouldn’t bedgrudge using something sexy like that to sell a few extra copies.

But nothing else on the front seems even remotely questionable.

Bloggers, myself included, like to make fun of the “mainstream media.” And for good reason: They do plenty of shoddy work and are frequently sloppy and ignorant in their reporting.   But the great papers, in whose company I’d put the Post, still put out far more quality journalism than crap. Let’s strive to call them out for the latter while not ignoring the former.

FILED UNDER: Media, , , , , , ,
James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College and a nonresident senior fellow at the Scowcroft Center for Strategy and Security at the Atlantic Council. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm vet. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.

Comments

  1. odograph says:

    Way to work in Rush again! (just kidding)

  2. Eneils Bailey says:

    But the great papers, in whose company I’d put the Post, still put out far more quality journalism than crap. Let’s strive to call them out for the latter while not ignoring the former.

    Unfortunately, they do more of the latter, while mostly ignoring the former.

    I would not take home a copy of that newspaper if it was given out as free.
    They have their standards; I have mine.

  3. sam says:

    I would not take home a copy of that newspaper if it was given out as free.
    They have their standards; I have mine.

    Well, EB, I’ll guess they’ll just have to live with that.

  4. Eneils Bailey says:

    Sam,
    As you know and can tell my standards are not that high.

    For me, if a newspaper can not pass the fish wrapper test, the bird cage bottom liner test, or the crinkled up ass wipe test; I have very little use for it.

    Oh, you don’t tell me, we are suppose to try read them.

  5. steve s says:

    Bloggers, myself included, like to make fun of the “mainstream media.” And for good reason: They do plenty of shoddy work and are frequently sloppy and ignorant in their reporting. But the great papers, in whose company I’d put the Post, still put out far more quality journalism than crap. Let’s strive to call them out for the latter while not ignoring the former.

    I can accept some bloggers’ criticism of the news media. But when The Corner and Michelle Malkin and Instapundit criticize the media, and then I go to their sites and see “Obama loves terrorists.” and “Obama’s birth certificate is a forgery.” …well…

  6. HiItsNino says:

    I can accept some bloggers’ criticism of the news media. But when The Corner and Michelle Malkin and Instapundit criticize the media, and then I go to their sites and see “Obama loves terrorists.” and “Obama’s birth certificate is a forgery.” …well…

    Me neither, while I canceled my subscription to the Washington Post 4 weeks ago, I am a bit concerned about where journalistic standards lay right now. Blogs can’t be depended on for real insite and revelation. Their only purpose is to re-validate what someone already believes regardless of weather or not its true or to distort the truth with jargon. This is not a good thing.

  7. sam says:

    EB, you’d be hard-pressed to convince me that you despise the WaPo more than I despise the editorial page of the Wall Street Journal. While not a news page, JJ’s point is still valid, mutatis mutandis, re that page: In amongst what I consider the mistakes that characterize most of the stuff there, I do find things worth reading. I would think I was doing myself a disservice if I quit reading it because I find most of it uncongenial. Most of what’s printed there does grate on me, but the page is still worth my time–and I don’t mean just the column that Tom Frank writes. Refusing to read great papers or editorial pages, like the WaPo or the NY Times or the WSJ (and it is a great editorial page, my sympathies notwithstanding), for ideological reasons is self-injurious I think.

  8. angellight says:

    Because “real” news/knowledge is power….

    In Pres. Obama’s Weekly Address last Saturday was a declaration of war against the special interests when he stated:

    “I realize that passing this budget won’t be easy. Because it represents real and dramatic change, it also represents a threat to the status quo in Washington. I know that the insurance industry won’t like the idea that they’ll have to bid competitively to continue offering Medicare coverage, but that’s how we’ll help preserve and protect Medicare and lower health care costs for American families. I know that banks and big student lenders won’t like the idea that we’re ending their huge taxpayer subsidies, but that’s how we’ll save taxpayers nearly $50 billion and make college more affordable. I know that oil and gas companies won’t like us ending nearly $30 billion in tax breaks, but that’s how we’ll help fund a renewable energy economy that will create new jobs and new industries. In other words, I know these steps won’t sit well with the special interests and lobbyists who are invested in the old way of doing business, and I know they’re gearing up for a fight as we speak. My message to them is this: So am I.”

  9. Eneils Bailey says:

    I am a bit concerned about where journalistic standards lay right now.

    Me too…

    Their only purpose is to re-validate what someone already believes regardless of weather or not its true or to distort the truth with jargon. This is not a good thing.

    Yeah, they seemed to be writing and broadcasting to each other in the print and broadcast media.

    Refusing to read great papers or editorial pages, like the WaPo or the NY Times or the WSJ (and it is a great editorial page, my sympathies notwithstanding), for ideological reasons is self-injurious I think.

    That’s a broad and general statement. It would probably surprise you what I watch, listen, and read. I have Sirius radio in my home and cars, and I can assure you, I listen to mostly the talk channels during the week. And there a variety of channels I listen to. I probably have over twenty newspapers bookmarked in my browswer, and open some of then on a daily basis.

    Just because I have a dislike of the WaPo doesn’t limit my exposure to other papers, media, and ideas.

    And no, I sustained no injuries or seem to have no lasting effects for ignoring one outlet in the MSM.