How journalism lost its top hat

Imagine the journalism industry as Uncle Pennybags, top hat included.

We once had a “natural monopoly” on trust, according to Philip Meyer and Yuan Zhang.  That monopoly has expired not because there hasn’t been enough money (although that’s not helping).

Our collective top hat is fluttering away in the winds of change because others have become less credible.

It’s not wholly their fault – our ink isn’t the blackest when it comes to our web content. The industry is surely not perfect. But we do have standards.

Journalism can’t be lumped in with the John Doe bloggers, wikis, and websites of the world. If we can be, then perhaps the marketplace of ideas is not suitable for the networked world.

Bill Kovach and Tom Rosenstiel’s “Elements of Journalism” declares that the essence of our craft is a “discipline of verification.”

Not only do we produce information, but we must guard against the release of digital vomit — the half-truths, untruths and opinion-as-fact nontruths.

We find ourselves in a mythic battle against the rise of the Hydra known as an “internet fact,” ascribed by Anita Dunn, 2009 White House communications director, in a Mother Jones article.

“If something is not immediately and vigorously denied,” Dunn warns, “it becomes a fact because it turns up on Google.”

Policing disinformation might truly be the new component of journalism.

We are information creators, interpreters/navigators and police, the three branches of the fourth estate.

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One Response to How journalism lost its top hat

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