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Opinion: I laughed, I cried, I cried some more and laughed again…

Mark Chapman

Mark Chapman

Mark Chapman is Nancy on Norwalk’s editor.

OK, we’re all a bit tired of the “woe is me” line when it comes to journalism, especially – and this may well be an oxymoron in many cases – local journalism.

But this commentary may be the most insightful, best researched and most entertaining thing I’ve read/watched on the subject.

Moreover, it is spot on. And it really has nothing to do with politics.

Please, with all due respect to the site’s namesake and the CT News Junkie folks, if there is one thing on the site you will pay attention to today, let this be it.

And, for the record, the written part just sort of gives credibility to the video. The video is key here. Yes, it is John Oliver. Yes, he does comedy. But, yes, this is deadly accurate, with the side benefit of being funny (that’s the opinion part you see in the headline).

Please, follow this link.

16 comments

Dorothy Mobilia August 9, 2016 at 11:17 am

Yup. That’s how it is. And some local papers do not even check their clips on the same stories, make corrections–maybe–only on their electronic outlets, and still are called the local “newspaper of record.”

Rod Lopez-Fabrega August 9, 2016 at 12:36 pm

We all KNOW that Oliver is right on target in his commentaries here. It is a further (frightening) confirmation of the disintegration of standards and restraints that make communication among civilized people tolerable. Daily, we are buried in a tidal wave of dross and artificiality screaming for our attention—stuff that all but the drones among us will have learned long ago to ignore or at the very least to mistrust.

I finally cancelled my subscription to the digital NYTimes after growing exasperation with the daily struggle to ferret authentic and undecorated tidbits of information I care about from the cornucopia of eye-catching entertainments they direct to my screen.

What remains is the trustworthy journalism of NON for very local and specific news about schools and local politics and whatever sprinkling of seemingly reliable national and international information one can glean from other sources. The international press is one place to look, but also suspect as much of it now is embracing the spreading “entertainment” styles that the intelli-depriving “smart” phones have brought to the world.

We hear John Oliver’s message that the dedicated independent journalists are the keepers of the flame and deserve our support. They have our admiration, but it is difficult to imagine they can carry the torch and keep the flame alive, considering the corrupting winds that are buffeting this society.

Nancy D August 9, 2016 at 4:39 pm

Mark, we sure do count on you now more than ever. How will your coverage be changing if you are located outside Connecticut? Are you planning on driving up here regularly or will you only be basing your coverage on what is available? Hope no big changes are in store for us.

Mark Chapman August 9, 2016 at 5:30 pm

@nancyD

Until we find a suitable apartment, there will be regular trips to Norwalk. Thanks for asking!

jlightfield August 9, 2016 at 5:36 pm

There’s a great book out there called Culture Crash: The Killing of the Creative Class, by Scott Timberg. It’s a great read on the state of getting paid for being creative, and yet as a futurist, I cringed reading about how the “world-is-coming-to-an-end-as-we-know-it”™ as chapter after chapter documented the struggle of how the economy of music, art and journalism was being destroyed by this new-fangled thing called the Internet.

Yes, the Internet has enabled disruption of existing business models. And just like the automobile disrupted the horse buggy, and the interstate highway disrupted the trolley/trains, and the airplanes disrupted the passenger ships, the Internet of things (IoT) is spawning a new model.

We are in the information age, where any business model that has placed the importance of mass-personalization will win out over the antiquated idea that mass-produced anything has any value these days. A news organization that doesn’t understand this is destined to fail, and as tragic as it is to see that happen, the replacement of the personalized news feed is lurking in the corners of Facebook and Twitter, Snapchat, Nextdoor, and Instagram.

Last weekend I created a pop-up art event. I spent less than $100 on “advertising” the event, was able to target my demographic precisely, timed my message to hit the people most likely to attend an arts event on an iffy weather day.

After glancing on the reports on those campaigns was happy to see that I reached an audience of around 12,000 over the three-day promotion. Half of the campaign was not even an ad per se; it was simply a post that I wrote about what was going on. I created the campaign after midnight one night because that is when I had time to do it. I spoke to no one, did not have to decipher an antiquated pricing system, I set my budget and tweaked the audience after reviewing the real-time reports.

I mention all this to provide a glimmer of what today’s media landscape is really like, both from the content side and the revenue side. Local content has value, but the delivery of audience for it has permanently changed. Time will tell if for the better, but I think in the end, there is so much opportunity for doing things differently that are way more exciting than being wistful for the good old days of a dying industry.

Peter Franz August 10, 2016 at 2:14 pm

@jlightfield It’s nice to read books, and think big picture, and I too am excited about lots of things that the IoT can bring to society. But, you’re fundamentally losing the story contained within Mark’s link.

Journalism is not being replaced. That is the point.

There is not automobile replacing the horse and buggy. People will simply not get news.

Everyone tweeting THEIR side of a story is not a substitute for journalism. Much of what you write seems to come uncomfortably close to the Tronc “Content Optimization” (see the video) nonsense that produces — I kid you not, I just checked — a current headline on Norwalk Patch that reads “Beaver Attacks Swimmers”.
Maybe it was a catcoon, not a beaver, I’m not sure.

Facebook, the oldest of the social media sources you list, has had way more than a decade to become the envisioned replacement for traditional news sources. . . but it has failed to come even remotely close.

Without professional journalists digging, interviewing, researching and writing about the important issues of the day, this work will not get done. There is no digital equivalent.

I’m glad you found success in getting people to show up at a free event. Norwalk needs it! But that is honestly and apple to oranges comparison to investigative journalism.

Mark Chapman August 10, 2016 at 3:03 pm

@Peter

You get it.

SO much misinformation makes its way around the globe in seconds thanks to social media, and so many alleged news outlets pick it up and run with it. Got three sources for that info? Yeah, two tweets and an Instagram. Right. The key here is journalism, not content creation, not artificial intelligence, not how many clicks a story will get. Journalists perform the largely thankless task of digging out the facts and telling people the news, good and bad, often news they don’t like but need to know. Society needs it whether it knows it or not.

jlightfield August 10, 2016 at 3:41 pm

@Peter Franz and @Mark Chapman, no actually you guys are not getting it. No need to for a journalist to report on a meeting, when the meeting is recorded live, streamed and archived. No need for a journalist to be the gatekeeper on what is news based on the constraints of print or pixels. No need for a publisher to invest in overhead based on an antiquated business model that the number of eyeballs needs to be large so that XyZ advertiser thinks they are getting good bang for the buck.

Lamenting about the craft of buggy-whip journalism instead of embracing the opportunity of crafting a new revenue model is why publishers keep reducing staff. Cherry picking the froth of tweetable, listicle content, just indicates at least to me, that there’s a whole lot of thinking about the tree and missing that the forest has just been clear cut.

Mark Chapman August 10, 2016 at 4:24 pm

@jlightfield

Some meetings are recorded live, streamed and archived. More are not. Quite often they are jargon heavy, which takes explaining. And no one is there to ask follow up questions. Explaining things is an important part of the job. And gate-keeping is a misleading term. Being selective about what gets covered does not or should not imply that other stories are not worthy. What it says is “this is what we think people should know today.” Without any Kardashians. Technology is exciting, but news is news, and without combing through poorly designed government websites and lettin government decide what is important enough to offer via live stream, etc., the place to get it is from journalists, not content creators, aggregators and bloggers.

jlightfield August 10, 2016 at 6:24 pm

@Mark Chapman, Once again you are staring hard at that tree. Sorry no, eventually all meetings will be recorded verbatim, whether filled with jargon or not, and that is far more important than preserving a gatekeeper of jargon translation to pick and choose what is important. The reporting that old school journalism follows (who, what, when, why and how) is largely superfluous. The investigative storytelling about what it all means is the ground that Laura Poitras, Glenn Greenwald, Ezra Klein and even the guys who started the Bleacher Reports, has shown to be the future of journalism.

Sure, it’s nostalgic to think that the scads of reporters no longer cover the “shipping news” is somehow letting those shipping companies get away with something, but that fifth estate raison d’etre was sold out a long time ago. It is why real-time information is what is the currency of news and mass produced anything is going away.

Was it a traditional journalist that shot a live FB video showing just another typical “driving while black” horrendous police stop? Was it a traditional journalist who moved communities to act?

Ponder more about George Orwell and Max Headroom instead of thinking anything Kardashian is a proxy for the news.

Mark Chapman August 10, 2016 at 7:35 pm

@jlightfield

A number of those videos have been questioned for their lack of context. A journalist would not release snippets that incite, then try to get the facts over the ensuing weeks while dodging flames, bullets, rocks, pepper spray, etc. If you believe facts and context are passe, and that NOW is all that matters, then you are part of the problem. And BTW, I am not in any way defending print. I am defending journalism the way it is meant to be done — honest, nonpartisan, integrity-based journalism. Your vision of information distribution sans journalists has helped bring us this election’s choices. Hey, the 8-Track was new and exciting once, too.

jlightfield August 10, 2016 at 8:50 pm

@Mark Chapman, LOL the 8-track was always a useless form of audio distribution. Now if we are talking Betamax, that’s a whole other case 😉

You seem to be confusing journalism the business and reporting. So unwind all your preconceptions about the two. There is no business model that is sustainable in the age of real-time information that relies on curated/reported/aggregated (it doesn’t matter what the activity is) that is then distributed in a mass produced way. Technology has disrupted that model permanently. Technology has made the distribution of scarce resources (information) possible at a fraction of the cost, more timely, more accessible, more permanent.

You can argue that right now, there’s a whole lot of legacy actors who don’t get that, and they will continue to fail. There are a whole lot of actors that will suddenly find themselves in the crosshairs of new media, and I’m not talking about the buzzword of the 20th century.

This election is all about old people who are afraid of change, doesn’t matter what direction, what political side; it is all about preserving idealistic nostalgia instead of embracing the future. So yeah, I guess technology causes fear, but let’s not gloss over the reality that no one should expect to be entitled to keep manufacturing buggy whips when there are is no interest in horse-drawn buggies.

Mark Chapman August 10, 2016 at 11:25 pm

@Jlightfield
“…let’s not gloss over the reality that no one should expect to be entitled to keep manufacturing buggy whips when there are is no interest in horse-drawn buggies.”

…Nor should anyone expect to be entitled to continue to spread unresearched, uncorroborated,often false information under the guise of journalism just because somebody will pay for it. And if people prefer paying to get inaccurate stories — hard to believe so many people are taken in by satire — and their own bias spewed back at them, well… it’s their world. “Your broke it, you bought it.”

Jlightfield August 11, 2016 at 8:47 pm

@mark Chapman you are just beating a dead horse, gotta keep with the theme here, as if there is only scurrilous faux journalism out there at the expense of real journalism. There’s plenty of awesome stuff, Vox media, and Plan Philly spring to mind. The idea of a newspaper is dead. I mean really, yesterday’s news today in print! Let me fire up that telegraph and get back to the Titanic.

Mark Chapman August 11, 2016 at 10:17 pm

JLightfield,

Well, some points of agreement. I don’t like dead horses. I’m not especially fond of live one’s either, given that a Montana equine assassin tossed Nancy during press trip to a working ranch, and she wound with 8 broken ribs and assorted other injuries.

I am not at all saying there is only faux journalism out there. I like Vox. Don’t pay much attention to Philly, but my research of online media –especially non-profit government-focused media — has found some very good stuff one frequently cited: The Texas Tribune). And there is this small, underfunded site in Norwalk, Conn….

Furthermore, print exists for two reasons, as far as I can tell: transitioning readers who are computer illiterate and transitioning advertisers who cling to the notion that if you can hold it in your hand, it must work better than a targeted, trackable online ad. After all, print has used circulation figures forever to sell their product. If advertisers knew how few people actually read their ads, or even notice the smaller ads packed onto multi-ad pages, they’d be horrified.

Still, few online-only journalism sites have found a way to make money other than selling out to larger online companies that think they have the answer. Foundations support the larger, well-staffed government-watchdog and even general news sites, along with reader donations (which actually make up the bulk of support for most non-profit sites) and some advertising, paid directories, etc.

Which brings us back to our point of disagreement: Journalism, and where to find it. Where would Norwalkers go to find anything like our series on parental unrest over the SPED situation? Where would they get the depth of information about the halfway house on Quintard? Those are the two most recent examples. There were no meetings, no tapes, live streaming. I agree about the standard old meeting coverage,most of which comes off as stenography when it is rushed into print to be “first.” We do recognize there are deficiencies in Norwalk’s electronic transmission of meetings and info to the public (still trailing what Sarasota and Charlotte counties were doing in the early 2000’s), and we try to fill in the gaps. But we are hoping to do more of the deeper coverage that our readers have been seeing recently.

And that all comes down to this: Do they want it enough to support it financially?

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