There’s been a splurge of stuff in the American blogs about “the article” and whether it still has a place in journalism. At first I thought this was just another missable debate provoked by the peculiar urge of some commentators to prove that the web is so exceptional and revolutionary that it alters the world, the universe and everything. Then I thought that there were a few things to say.
This discussion began, as many do, with a post by that carrier-to-the-extreme Jeff Jarvis on buzzmachine.com. The opener gives the flavour: “A few episodes in news make me think of the article as not as the goal of journalism but as a value-added luxury or as a by-product of the process.”
Jeff didn’t argue that people were going to stop writing articles, just that they were going to be less central to journalism. Because so many more people now capture and distribute news, more of that news will be in little pieces. Background can be linked to, synthesis is a luxury and reporting is what counts. I hope this is a fair summary. (If it isn’t Jeff will let you know, as he did with Matthew Ingram.) There’s also been a parallel and closely related discussion about whether “news” and “analysis” are going to be divorced and separated by these changes (see here and here).
One could quibble that “the article” wasn’t ever the “goal” of journalism. One could point out (and commenters on Jeff’s post did) that value-added luxury is a contradiction in terms. But the basic issue here is the relationship between fragments and the whole. The new trend right now is for refining ways of streaming bits of news at you in more interesting and enriched ways: expert Twitter curation, liveblogs and so on. In other words, the fragments are where peoples’ attention is directed just now. That’s an exploration of the possibilities of new platforms and applications: there’ll be yet more of them next year, and the year after that. When the innovation wave has washed away – and that may be a long time yet – what will be left? Continue reading →