When I started in journalism, my superior at NBC told me I would need a college degree and a minimum of five years' writing experience at a newspaper or wire service to be considered for on-air work. At NBC in those years, every reporter and many producers met or exceeded those requirements. Virtually every journalist wrote his own copy.
Now, none of those things seem to matter. As the quality of stories has diminished and we now fixate on runaway brides, car chases, celebrity trials and other sideshows, serious subjects such as the war and coming conflicts with China and possibly Russia take a back seat.
If the public is unprepared for new threats and challenges, it will largely be the big media's fault for failing to prepare them. The public will share the blame for fixating on blogs.
Blogs have their place. They played an important role in the last presidential election by contributing to the debate over John Kerry's experience in Vietnam and George Bush's National Guard records. But if they replace solid journalistic principles and practices, the public will be ill-served and the profession may suffer a mortal wound from which it might not recover.
With blogs, we do not know if what we read is true. For most blogs, no editor checks for factual errors and no one is restrained from editorializing. The Big Media sometime are guilty of these same shortcomings, but at least with them there is a presumption in favor of accuracy and fairness, plus there's a way to shame them and occasionally force a correction if they mess up. Blogs have no checks and balances.
I suspect - and hope - that once the bloom is off the blogs, serious people (and they seem to be an endangered species) might still crave real journalism and be able to remember what it looked and sounded like.
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