In today’s New York Times, David Carr writes about the subjects of articles demanding to review their quotations before they are published. Needless to say, this practice is corrosive to the practice of legitimate journalism, which is about reporting on things that public figures would not openly tell you on their own.
I think it’s interesting to look at why this is taking place. Not only is the democratization of the media hurting news reporting as a business, but it’s also reducing the value of the media as an interface between public figures and the public. At one time, if public figures wanted to disseminate a message, they had to talk to reporters with the hope that the reporter would convey their message in the way they intended.
That’s no longer necessary. A celebrity, politician, or business leader can publish a tweet, or a tweet that links to a blog post, or a video on YouTube. Those, in turn, will be shared by everyone who cares about them. The idea of making an announcement by giving a reporter an exclusive interview is almost completely dead.
The power to reach the public directly gives public figures the power to dictate the terms of their relationships with reporters. The other side of this story is the increased reliance on anonymous sources in reporting. In the modern age, if you’re going to speak publicly, you may as well just deliver the news yourself. Talking to journalists is what you do if you want to deliver news without having to give your name.
I don’t see this relationship between the media and sources changing anytime soon, so it’s up to us to take this changing relationship into account as media consumers. One thing’s for sure — it’s not a great time to be a journalist.