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Gladwell's case for newspapers

Posted at 1:00 PM on January 8, 2007 by Bill Wareham (1 Comments)

The changing journalism landscape has, for professional reasons if nothing else, captured a fair amount of my attention in recent years. So this item by Malcolm "Tipping Point" Gladwell caught my eye. It's a defense of newspapers specifically, but I think much of it applies to what we do here at MPR News as well. He argues in part:

We operate with the assumption, particularly in our understanding of what makes financial markets efficient, that those with the best incentives to ferret out the truth are those who are partial—that is, are directly involved in the process—and those who are economically motivated, who have money at stake. So you’d think that hedge funds, shorts, arbs, and analysts—all of whom were massively partial and economically motivated—would have been the first to see the “real” Enron.

But they weren’t. Reporters were, a group who—at least in theory—you’d think were in the least advantageous position.

Comments (1)

I really liked the bit that followed:

"There are real limits on how much space and time they can devote to a particular story, and their rewards for doing well are almost entirely internal and professional: good reporters are rewarded, largely, by having their status elevated among other reporters. On Wall Street, seeing truth gets you a million dollar bonus. At a newspaper, it gets you a slap on the back."

The emphasis always seems to be on where the story is lacking, the perceived bias in a word choice or the person being interviewed, etc.

There needs to be more public back slapping, if thats the best we can give.

Posted by Robin Marty | January 8, 2007 2:43 PM