Last night I actually met that rare creature: Ajournalism academic who likes the Internet and seems to have fun with it.
My experience with the UW Journalism School’s forays into exploring new media hasn’t been good. At their centennial in 2005 they hosted a panel on blogging that included no bloggers, and featured Owen Ullman of USA Today trash-talking bloggers only to admit to me afterward that he read no blogs at all. So I went intothis event fully expecting it to be a festival of whining about those filthy hippies thinking they can presume toput words down and have them read by people. I mean, I never.
Now, there was the usual generality of why the Internet sucks: You can destroy reputations very quickly (as if a story in the New York Times or a spot on Hard Copy doesn’t do that for you), accuracy no longer matters (no examples given at all, we just presume this to be true), correcting something on the Internet happens after publication (erm, the corrections I had to write as a reporter would argue this is not that different and that a larger problem instead is the editing of posts without noting corrections are made at all, which happens mostly … at newspaper web sites), and transparency is the new objectivity and that might not be a good thing (at which point I gave up on my vow not to drink on school nights and started glugging the chardonnay).
But by and large, this was a guy who liked the Internet and used it for what it was meant to be used for, and wasn’t talking about how journalism is doomed. He even dared raise the question of whether we’re all just needing to calm down a bit about the death of newspapers, given the profitability of many. I about set off fireworks, I was so happy to hear the topic raised, as well as to hear discussion of the changes in advertising (raised by Mr. A and others) and business ethics. All the journalism ethics in the world are useless if the bosses are stealing things, as you all well know.
A couple of things that struck me, though, not from Ward’s talk but from the comments of others in the audience. Over and over I heard people in the audience say that though they, personally, knew that Wikipedia was not a reliable source of ironclad truth, other people, gullible people who are not them, might not be able to be trusted to figure that out. Young people, also not them, might have a harder time in the future because they are not as media-literate as the speaker presumed him- or herself to be.