Cash for Popularity: The Latest Journalistic Twist

The NY Observer announced a new policy  of offering cash bonuses as an incentive to entice reporters to write about popular subjects and boost web visits to their stories. Read more here: http://www.theawl.com/2010/05/pink-weekly-debuts-cash-for-traffic-reporter-bonus-jackpot-scheme.

While this publication is not the NY Times or the Wall St. Journal, the idea behind it may open the door for editorializing, opinion pieces and entertainment for other news outlets. It made me think of the lead-in to the local TV FOX news affiliate last night. The top “news” story was about the TV show “24” and star Kiefer Sutherland and that fact that his alter ego, a.k.a. Jack Bauer is ending his final crusade against terrorists in the final season of this hit TV show. Since when does prime time TV programming constitute news? According to FOX TV, that would be nearly every night. Recent studies indicate that the majority of Americans still get their news, in this order of priority: TV (local news first, national next) and now the Internet (Source: Pew Internet research: http://www.pewinternet.org/Media-Mentions/2010/CNN-Tech-Online-News.aspx)–and newspapers third. How do you get your news fix and do you care if it’s packaged as entertainment?

Are bloggers really journalists?

Just read a fascinating opinion piece in The Daily News, by Andre Stepankowski, the city editor for this daily news media outlet. The thrust of his article is that “bloggers” or “citizen journalists” are not really journalists. And, he backs it up with some very compelling arguments. Read it here: http://tinyurl.com/l55xas. Now, I believe many people realize that bloggers are not professional journalists. And, I do believe a blog can be a useful forum to discuss and exchange ideas as long as ALL comments (with the exception of profanity-laden tirades and ads for Viagra) are allowed to be posted and remain unedited and uncensored. Sadly, that is not the case with some blogs that violate this Internet guideline of transparency. In fact, some spiteful blog moderaters will go so far as to take snippets of official news releases (as if they are doing your organization a favor!) or cut and past content out of context and then editorialize or skew the meaning and misinterpret the facts. What’s perhaps even more worrisome or hilarious, depending on how you see it, are the pseudonyms that hide the true identity of real people. Some people believe that if they comment on their own opinion pieces, masquerading as a different person, it will support their own cause. (With some blogs and new Internet tools, it’s fairly easy to see through the facade and identify the person when you examine the digital signature of the source). It is a laughable paradox that by promoting themselves, they actually do a disservice to the entire blogosphere. And, as Stepankowski puts it,  “No one is talking about muzzling anyone here. Everyone is entitled to have his say, provided it doesn’t libel or slander anyone. But, as the saying goes, opinions are cheap because everyone has one, and not everyone knows the difference between opinion and fact.” Don’t you love America!