Brand? Did you mean bland?

It’s a rainy Friday in November, so how ’bout some gloom with that tea?

Americans – our readers, our audience – aren’t exactly happy with the news media.  Readers’ levels of trust and credibility in our institutions are hitting the bottom of the rain barrel.

Meanwhile, media “politicians” in the far right and far left are taking flak for their child-like outbursts and attempts to push authority to find out where the real boundaries lie.  Our journalistic institutions are mimicking our politics, too closely on some days.

Yet this might be a problem we have created for ourselves.  I distinctly remember a Comm Law lecture where Preston explored the triviality of lawsuits surrounding the Barbie empire.  Petty, at best.

Ah, she corrected, not so fast.  Preston explained that Mattel had the right and the duty to protect the Barbie name against anything that would serve to “dilute the Barbie mark,” as one case put it.

From our discussion with G.K. today, I can’t help but believe that journalism has been watered down as a brand.  Bloggers and wikis are lumped with the NYT, NBC, ABC and USA Today.

Journalism is regarded as “The Media,” a monolithic institution composed of old stereotypes, crowned by Watergate, and far removed from the real interests and discussions of the public.

Our brand – accurate but timely news, investigative watchdog roles, slice-of-life personality pieces, and connections with our communities – has been drowned by the revving of the eternal search engine.  We chose not to distinguish ourselves from Joe Bob Blogger, and here we sit in 2010, late to the fight.

Meyer & Zhang argue that journalism once had a “natural monopoly” on trust.  That monopoly has expired not because we are less credible.  It is fluttering away in the winds of change because others have no credibility and are put in the same box where we used to live.

Selective exposure is transforming into unselective distrust as readers have morphed the brand of capable, fact-checked (for the most part) journalism into The Media.

Good, accountable journalism represents a small fraction of The Media, and should distinguish itself as such.  Journalism is journalism, but we may be starting a battle that is already lost.

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2 Responses to Brand? Did you mean bland?

  1. Katherine Reed says:

    this is a smart post. I showed it off in the reporting class this morning.

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