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Journalism is like Latin

Traditional journalism is like Latin,
it’s a dead language.

Some people still speak it,
like Catholic priests for example,
but most people just don’t understand it.

by P. Money at 2008-06-22 20:59:51 UTC (ed. Jun 28 2008 ) Louisville, KY , United States | Bookmark | | Report spam→

What is “traditional journalism?” What exactly is the kind of journalism against which it is to be compared?

by [former member] | 23 Jun 2008 11:06 | currently Nowheresville, ME, United States | | Report spam→
Traditional journalism is a general term that encompasses various terms relating to the craft.

Particularly printed media which is having a difficult time surviving in the marketplace
because nobody wants to pay for it anymore
because it’s not that good
and because it’s boring.

Let’s not forget that most people just don’t read anymore, let alone the newspaper.

‘Traditional journalism’ can also loosely connote other antiquated forms of communication
such as ‘AP Style’ or "objective journalism’ which is arguably just a classy way of really saying
“one-size fits-all mass-market bullshit journalism’.

See, the web has taken us from a no-opinion nihilistic model
to a pro-opinion free marketplace of ideas model of communication.

Traditional journalism can also connote journalism that is not multimedia or ‘new media’ journalism
which is inherently modern (or even ultramodern) which is of course the opposite of traditional.

Journalism that is nationalistic is also traditional.

Journalism outlets that operate in an authoritarian office environment with a hierarchy of editors
are also inherently traditional.

More or less.

by P. Money | 23 Jun 2008 18:06 | Louisville, KY, United States | | Report spam→
Patrick, I don’t know, I’d say that the kind of journalism you seem to be talking about is an entirely ‘modern’ phenomenon…

by Ed Giles | 23 Jun 2008 18:06 | Huahine, French Polynesia | | Report spam→
Haha, you’re right Ed.

Journalism is just a replacement for gossip in ‘modern’ industrial societies
just as police are a ‘modern’ replacement for hurly burly in ‘traditional’ societies.

That’s why I said "or ultramodern’ to help avoid confusion.

by P. Money | 23 Jun 2008 18:06 | Louisville, KY, United States | | Report spam→
People, intelligent people at least, still like to read but many newspapers are so busy trying to be all things to all people that they have become dumbed down. I don’t want celebrity news or home improvement advice in my newspaper, I want news. Accurate, in-depth and insightful.

I don’t disagree that much print journalism is boring and not well written. But there is good work out there too, and to dismiss it all at once is a cop-out. Perhaps people are too self-absorbed or don’t care enough about the world to seek out the good written journalism that is still out there.

I don’t know if it’s even possible for journalists to be totally objective and free of opinions (I would hate to meet a person who had no opinions) but I like my news to be reasonably non-biased and factual. If that makes it traditional, so be it.

In any event journalism that is objective isn’t always “one-size fits-all mass-market bullshit journalism", as you put it. If anything the partisan opinion-filled ramblings of fox news and Co. are pandering to the mass market and providing opinions to people who are not informed enough to form their own opinions.

Multimedia may be ultra modern, but it’s still often boring. There are a ton of bad soundslides out there with bad pictures, poor sound and they don’t tell you anything. I’d rather read a well written and researched text story than see a poorly-crafted slideshow. At least at the end of it I will have learned something I didn’t know, which is really the point, isn’t it?

Multimedia is, well, a medium. I would say you could do “traditional” journalism in a multimedia piece, as witnessed by the myriad of boring videos and slideshows you can find on most of the newspaper websites in the US. Of course if used well, multimedia can also be an incredible way to tell a story. But most multimedia pieces, even good ones, leave me wanting to know more.

So I think the “traditional” well reported text story is a nice partner with multimedia. Ideally, we can see and hear about a subject then read more about it for details. Best of both worlds, no?

by Noah Addis | 23 Jun 2008 21:06 | Istanbul, Turkey | | Report spam→
I’m a big advocate of pairing written stories with multimedia stories.

As for ‘objective’ journalism, here’s an earlier take of mine if you want my in-depth opinion:

I agree with most of what you’re saying Noah,
but that doesn’t mean that traditional journalism is not a dead language.

by P. Money | 23 Jun 2008 21:06 | Louisville, KY, United States | | Report spam→
Noah nailed it.

The “non-traditional” things that Patrick talks about have been around forever. They did not originate with the Internet or “multimedia” which are only vehicles. Journalism is not about vehicles, but rather about reporting events accurately and also credibly. Documentary movies have been around for something like a 3/4 of a century, and could be viewed as multimedia (words and pictures). The Internet is just a (usually) more efficient way of getting information in the form of sound, text and visual images to people.

And BTW, good editing is not hierarchial. It is collaborative. It can exist in hierarchies, but is really about style not organization.

Jingoistic descriptions of journalism are copouts, ignoring the important functional elements of the craft. Trying to describe it in some modern haiku don’t cut it intellectually.

by [former member] | 23 Jun 2008 22:06 | currently Nowheresville, ME, United States | | Report spam→
Journalism is supposed to be about keeping as many people informed as possible so that they can make informed decisions which is vital for a successful democracy.

Traditional print journalism, in its current form, has the ability to keep about 15-20% of the population somewhat informed, hardly the 51% majority you need to make democracy actually function.

We write simple to make the information as accessible to the most amount of people as possible, but what good is that if most people don’t even read?

Marshall McLuhan predicted this would happen, he predicted that television would make people dumber and it has. What most people want in America (on the market, not in some magical fantasyland) is audio-visual information.

What we are witnessing in journalism is what you would call a market failure. An inability for journalism to adapt to the changing needs of its consumer. Journalism is dying for a reason, partly because language is changing.

Communication is changing, substantially and quickly. Latin died for a reason. Journalism is dying for a reason too.

It’s a simple thought and I’m sorry if that offends anybody, but it’s true.
How is that jingoistic? Doesn’t that mean extreme patriotism?

I do have a college degree in journalism, for what it’s worth, and I have grown up with the internet and videogames and Facebook and cellphones. I have also made a lot of accurate predictions about media within the past four years, consistently.

Write me off if you will, I’m used to it, but that doesn’t mean that I’m wrong.

by P. Money | 24 Jun 2008 00:06 | Louisville, KY, United States | | Report spam→
If people want increased audio-visual information in the US, then why is television dying? The answer is that television has abandoned its public service commitment. So has commercial radio, and the result has been the explosive growth of NPR. The audience of NPR’s Morning Edition is multiples of that of even the most successful morning television show and has grown consistently over tha past ten years. But it would not be there without practicing the most serious form of journalism, with such antediluvian concepts as balanced reporting, editors, and meaningful sound context.

If you think that 51% of the population has ever in the last fifty years been informed by newspapers, then you are fundamentally mistaken. Some newspapers have been the source of citizenship information, but that was principally for opinion leaders. That continues today, and I’ll bet the percentages are not very different. But that has not been all of them, and rarely did even the best reach the masses with political, social or ecomomic news…most bought the newspaper for the sports and classified ads.

The real problem with newspapers has been public ownership, whereby stock values have driven management decisions. The result has been turmoil among editorial mangement and resulting inattention to journalism. Newspaper journalism has thus been strangled. It has not died a natural death due to obsolescence. If it had the same publishing environment to work in as, say, 1970, we would see a very different newspaper journalism…including many more high-quality photographs, as well as affiliated Web sites with much more multimedia content.

But don’t write off fact-based journalism based on changes in the means of delivery. The changes are not a result of the way journalism is practiced.

by [former member] | 24 Jun 2008 02:06 | currently Nowheresville, ME, United States | | Report spam→
I agree that the US population is becoming less well-informed, though I won’t make the value judgement that people are actually getting dumber.

And I also agree that part of the blame lies with the media outlets, which have failed to adapt to the changing needs of society. But I don’t think that means we should all give up and make reality shows instead of doing meaninful reporting.

If most people in america want audio-visual information (some might say stimulation), does that mean we should produce as much of that content as possible without worrying about quality and thoughtful reporting? That’s the kind of thinking that led to the dumbing-down of the media in the first place.

Personally, I’d rather see dedicated journalists using whatever tools, from text stories to radio reports to slideshows and video, to tell accurate meaningful stories. There still is an audience for good work.

Patrick, not sure if it was directed at me but I’m certainly not writing you off, just having a discussion. I am left wondering about your motivations. You seem to be promoting a rather negative view of our profession without suggesting any solutions. If you were a newspaper publisher, what would you do? Or, as an independent journalist, how would you try to make citizens more informed?

by Noah Addis | 24 Jun 2008 03:06 | Istanbul, Turkey | | Report spam→
Incidentally, in my mind (and as I used it here) jingoism means unreasonable bias in assessing one’s own environment as being superior to that of others.

And I too believe we are just having a debate. It’s not about anybody personally, and certainly not about anyone being personally written off. But if you posit an idea, and it gets attacked, defend it! The Lightstalkers community is about ideas, and we all should feel free to advocate them.

by [former member] | 24 Jun 2008 10:06 | currently Nowheresville, ME, United States | | Report spam→
camera is a latin word ;))

by Michael Bowring | 24 Jun 2008 11:06 | Belgrade, Serbia | | Report spam→
Patrick makes good points.

Neal, I don’t see how you could characterize NPR as good journalism or insightful or whatever. It’s tired. Has been tired. And is basically every bit as corporate controlled as the for-profit networks. Good journalism is out there. But it’s not these days to be found in the traditional spots. Knowing that reality makes it easier to stay informed actually. And also makes me personally less grumpy about the state of reporting.

by [former member] | 24 Jun 2008 14:06 | San Francisco, California, United States | | Report spam→
Glad to have your opinion about NPR, David, but over 25 million other audience members seem to disagree and listen every week to its journalism.

And, as to “corporate control” at NPR, please prove your point with some facts, not unsubstantiated allegations. I know a bit about what happens inside NPR, and what you say simply is not so.

by [former member] | 24 Jun 2008 22:06 | currently Nowheresville, ME, United States | | Report spam→
Sorry, Latin is way over my stupid head. How do you say Mediastorm in Latin?

by Stupid Photographer | 24 Jun 2008 22:06 | Holy Smokes, Holy See | | Report spam→
Since I never studied Latin although I have sung in Latin, I looked up camera in Wiki.

When I studied Italian, I learned its more normal meaning and the above link tells you tha “camera” comes from camera obscura meaning dark chamber.

by Tomoko Yamamoto | 24 Jun 2008 22:06 | Baltimore, MD, United States | | Report spam→
Astonishing what one can learn without attending photo 101. Which reminds me. Before making their first stupid post, future LS members should be required to view all six episodes of The Genius of Photography.
By the way, did you know that in music, a scale is a group of musical notes that provides material for part or all of a musical work? Yeah, no kidding! I looked it up on Wiki.

by Stupid Photographer | 25 Jun 2008 00:06 (ed. Jun 25 2008) | Holy Smokes, Holy See | | Report spam→
Neal, I’m not energetic enough to bash NPR properly with facts, figures and statistics. I would only point to Democracy Now, Counterpunch.org, Alternet.org, and even Antiwar.com for news and commentary that is devoid of corporate support and therefore implicit control. I also think The Guardian, The Independent, Der Spiegel (English Edition), and some reporting by The Economist do a good job even though they are for profit. I also like much of the business press around the world because frequently although not always business reporting requires more “reality based” approaches. For particular journalists that I feel are pretty good, Jeremy Scahill, Patrick Cockburn, and Robert Fisk will do. There are others of course. And frankly, the first hand reports and posts from the people right here on LS are a source of information.

25 million people can be wrong. Entire nations have been wrong and on the wrong side of history. It is possible. NPR is some of the most tepid journalism around in my humble opinion. If you find it credible or interesting or well put together, I’m not suggesting you change your mind. However, I don’t care for it.

by [former member] | 25 Jun 2008 00:06 | San Francisco, California, United States | | Report spam→
It’s nothing but a cheap shot, David, to make an allegation then claim a lack of energy to support it with facts. But the full proof of the flaw in your reasoning is that you then admit that advertising support is not a barrier to your other favorite writers and publications doing “a good job.”

If you are looking for media that only bestow information that supports your attitudes, then you are simply aligning yourself with the force behind Fox News and other non-objective media. If that floats your boat, then so be it. But it doesn’t produce quality journalism. It is just another form of pandering to the public.

by [former member] | 25 Jun 2008 01:06 | currently Nowheresville, ME, United States | | Report spam→
The worst journalism is the kind where a false objectivity reigns supreme. I look for media that explains a point of view with solid reporting. I don’t know about Fox, but the journalists and sources I mention definitely have opinions. And they don’t hide them behind some false fake objectivity.

by [former member] | 25 Jun 2008 01:06 | San Francisco, California, United States | | Report spam→
Non-profit does not make for good journalism necessarily. Alter-net.org and the likes can be as colored as the rest of what you read. The last photojournalist I saw working unethically, posing people in photos, happened to be a representative of indymedia.org, (of course this does not speak for other similar organizations) but whether an orgnization is for profit or not, does not, in my opinion, lend to its credibility, or lack thereof. What you are pointing to are examples that are arguably at a point fairly left of center on the scale anyways. The names alone (antiwar.com!) should tell you that, not that it is a bad thing, but they all have their point they are trying to make.

And I don’t think journalism is dead, or dying. Morphing maybe (into who knows what), but that’s what it’s done since its inception. Multimedia is still 90% shit and most presentations, sadly, can’t hold the attention of the viewer like even a talking head may be able to. The TV isn’t making people dumber either, if anything I have faith that many people in general are starting to see past the bullshit on their TV and educate themselves partially out of frustration from not getting anything good on the tube. But I’m an optimist.

by Peter Hoffman | 25 Jun 2008 05:06 | Naperville, IL, United States | | Report spam→
Andrew Keen as some interesting things to say in The Cult Of The Amateur"


As the number of sources “information” increases on the internet (blogs, various forms of participatory “citizen” journalism, on-line newspapers with more fragmanted content than anyone can possibly digest), the amount of money available in any one place to finance the production of quality reporting will decrease. The best educated and informed commentators on a subject will sell their talents elsewhere, do something else, unable to make a living working for these micro-markets.

An example of such an informed commentator (who is also an NPR contributor) is Ahmed Rashid who’s journalistic knowledge and ability to clearly communicate never cease to impress me


I hear the noise about multimedia but when I look at what many newspapers are producing it turns out often to be little more than parochial anecdote – we’ve had a lot of snow, local artist has exhibition, the oldest citizen etc etc – and hardly worth the time spent watching.

There are exceptions, most often than not work that has been originated for another purpose and repackaged as multimedia – the “Kingsley” story on Mediastorm or Majoli’s latest work in Alaska or Russia, for example. In the case of Jobard’s work, I believe it took 6 months, a 30,000 euro grant to finance it and the support of his agency Sipa. Hardly avarage production conditions, confirming that funding and time are neccessary to produce good work.
Concerning the assertion that “Journalism is supposed to be about keeping as many people informed as possible so that they can make informed decisions which is vital for a successful democracy”, I can only say that the operative word is “supposed” and that such an assertion raises all sorts of questions about what information is considered to be, how a journalist or commentator becomes “qualified” to have access to a given media and the relationship between content, opinion, target demographic, advertizing etc… It’s not that simple.

“Boring” content? Well, understanding can require an effort. Subjects can be complicated and difficult to package in a convenient, user-friendly manner. If you only eat candy you will die. The problem is not that content is boring but the perception that accessing it should be easy, rapid, fun and within the intellectual grasp of all.

As far as latin goes, for over 1000 years it did provide a common platform by which – beyond nationality and regional language – information and ideas could be shared by the best informed and educated. A cohesive force, then, in a way and perhaps something worth aspiring to when you consider the amount of noise surrounding us in this modern, multimedia, world.

by DPC | 25 Jun 2008 07:06 (ed. Jun 25 2008) | Paris, France | | Report spam→
having survived 5 years of latin study, i beg to differ but latin is very much alive. “The Latin alphabet, together with its modern variants such as the English, Spanish and French alphabets, is the most widely used alphabet in the world.” – wikipedia everyone here is using it right now, just not in the
2000 year old form you’re refering to.

is journalism dying because it’s civilization collapsed? or because the high
priests decided (circa 1962-5 -OED) that dispensing benediction in a language the masses could understand would ensure their own survival?

huh. perceptum quispiam novus sulum.

by julia s. ferdinand | 25 Jun 2008 08:06 | chiang mai, Thailand | | Report spam→
nice analogy julia.

when martin luther translated the bible from latin into a language the masses could understand,he set of a chain of events that left millions dead or dispossessed and changed the geo-political map of europe forever.

by Michael Bowring | 25 Jun 2008 08:06 | Belgrade, Serbia | | Report spam→
thanks michael.

not to be pedantic. just feel there is a flaw in the logic of the arguement.

and interestingly, listening to npr this afternoon, talk of the nation, about
robert mugabe. two callers rang in because they felt the journalists were
presenting too biased a viewpoint. no one was dispensing mugabe’s point
of view was the accusation. as benignly as i can put it, a bit odd wouldn’t
you say?

though definitely ‘wait, wait don’t tell me’ gets my vote as best news delivery

by julia s. ferdinand | 25 Jun 2008 09:06 | chiang mai, Thailand | | Report spam→
i blame the decline of the printed press on the e.u. regulation that banned the wrapping of fish and chips in newspaper! ever since they did that the sales have declined. coincidence,i think not ;)

by Michael Bowring | 25 Jun 2008 10:06 | Belgrade, Serbia | | Report spam→
too funny. dreaming of fish and chips just the other day. salt and vinegar.
with or without newsprint.

by julia s. ferdinand | 25 Jun 2008 15:06 | chiang mai, Thailand | | Report spam→
Excellent points by many, I must say.

I wish I had the time to respond to everyone individually,
but I’ve been crazy busy these past few days.

Thanks to everyone for their feedback.

We can debate semantics all day long
but here are some recent articles all written within a week of each other
that might do a better job of articulating the literal death of traditional journalism..

Papers Facing Worst Year for Ad Revenue

How close to default is your paper? (Be sure to check out the default-o-matic!)

SPECIAL REPORT: ’Til Debt Do Us Part—Probing the Hidden Reason for Newspaper Crisis

Red Ink: McClatchy Cuts Employees, Gannett Pensions

Tribune staffers warned of drastic cuts ahead

An unstable media landscape has journalists seeking PR positions

by P. Money | 25 Jun 2008 15:06 (ed. Jun 25 2008) | Louisville, KY, United States | | Report spam→
I must stupidly point out the fact that while Paper is down, Web is up: http://www.PDNPulse.com/2008/06/newspapers-more.html

And Web is not Stills, it’s Motion.

by Stupid Photographer | 25 Jun 2008 16:06 (ed. Jun 25 2008) | Holy Smokes, Holy See | | Report spam→
Coming back to the first statement, I want say something: if Journalism is like Latin, remember that latin became in in new languagues as French, Spanish, Rumanian, Portuguese, etc.

by [former member] | 25 Jun 2008 16:06 | Mexico DF, Mexico | | Report spam→
I would like to point out a few more places people have been going for alternative commentaries
and news that you don`t find in the MSM, originally paper-based. These are
truthout.org and

While they now sport the site with multimedia, they are basically web newspapers heavy on

by Tomoko Yamamoto | 25 Jun 2008 19:06 (ed. Jun 26 2008) | Baltimore, MD, United States | | Report spam→
“Our republic and it’s press will rise or fall together.
The power to mold the future of the republic
will begin in the hands of the journalist of future generations.”

-Joseph Pulitzer

Is the decline and fall of American journalism
arguably paralleling the decline and fall of America?

by P. Money | 25 Jun 2008 20:06 | Louisville, KY, United States | | Report spam→
IMHO, the fall of American journalism as we have known it might very well take place regardless of the state of America.
If, on the otherhand, the decline of the USA becomes obvious, the MSM might follow. However, I do see encouraging
signs of altervative media, web journalism, in truthdig.com and truthout.org. They are becoming more than just
a bunch of commentaries gathered together. When they grow, I would hope that there will be a viable alternative
to two major political parties.

If you go to www.webarchive.org, type in truthout.org, you can see what they used to look like back in 2001-2.
some links at the archive do not work, so you might have to try a few to have a look.

by Tomoko Yamamoto | 26 Jun 2008 02:06 (ed. Jun 26 2008) | Baltimore, MD, United States | | Report spam→
Hmm. truthdig.com and truthout.org. Hmm. At the check out counter where I just got milk, they stupidly never heard of it. Latin to ’em. Prolly morons.

by Stupid Photographer | 26 Jun 2008 03:06 (ed. Jun 26 2008) | Holy Smokes, Holy See | | Report spam→
This post is strange, as soon as I log in it’s gone from the list…

I can only speak for Germany, but here what you call traditional journalism is not dead. While sales figures of smaller papers are falling, circulation of quality papers remain constant and circulation of weekly papers (like Die Zeit) is actually rising. The most viewed news website is that of the most traditional German magazine Der Spiegel. (I guess its the same with nyt.com in the US?)

“Let’s not forget that most people just don’t read anymore, let alone the newspaper.” Well, I claim the opposite. People have never read more than today – thanks to the internet.

The written word is not boring. It may be not as entertaining as a multimedia piece, but it is still the best way to report on complex events and developments. Moving images have the tendency to be superficial. I love Mediastorm and the likes, but I don’t see more in them as an addition to “traditional” journalism. Besides that, its not that new. I’ve seen amazing audio slideshows in the 90s – not online, but live.

While I want journalism to have a standpoint, I also want to be informed – as balanced as possible, AP style. Thus I can forge an opinion myself.

No new medium has ever entirely replaced an old medium. And I don’t see it happen at the moment.

by Daniel Etter | 26 Jun 2008 05:06 | Munich, Germany | | Report spam→
So very many big selling newspapers have dumbed down & are now like comics. In fact, scarily worse than comics because the “newspapers”(so called)have political weight.

by L--T | 28 Jun 2008 17:06 | Bangkok, Thailand | | Report spam→

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P. Money, Creative & Futurist P. Money
Creative & Futurist
(See That Which Cannot Be Seen)
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Ed Giles, Photojournalist Ed Giles
Sydney , Australia
Noah Addis, Documentary Photographer Noah Addis
Documentary Photographer
Philadelphia , United States ( PHL )
Michael Bowring, photographer Michael Bowring
Belgrade , Serbia
Stupid Photographer, Dazed, shocked, stupefied Stupid Photographer
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Holy Smokes , Holy See
Tomoko Yamamoto, Multimedia Artist Tomoko Yamamoto
Multimedia Artist
Vienna , Austria
Peter Hoffman, photographer Peter Hoffman
Naperville , United States ( ORD )
DPC, Photographer DPC
Paris , France
julia s. ferdinand, photographer julia s. ferdinand
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Daniel Etter, Photographer / Writer Daniel Etter
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