April 11, 2012
Vijaya Prasad

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State of Content

On the verge of starting journalism school, many years ago (2009), I saw the movie State of Play, with Russel Crowe, Rachael McAdams and Ben Afflec. Crowe plays the seasoned investigative print journalist, McAdams, the eager novice online blogger and Afflec the handsome but troubled politician. As the movie evolves, McAdams and Crowe learn to work together, using the power of technology and good old fashioned investigative journalism skills to uncover a Washington conspiracy. The point of this little story is that the best technology in the world won’t matter if you don’t do the legwork when writing a story. The idea that content is royalty (or perhaps the democratically elected President, to be politically correct.) is a consistent in a dynamic field.


Which is why I was surprised at this recent GigaOm article claiming that Journalism legend Bob Woodword was wrong about the internet and journalism.

Bob Woodward, at the American Society of News Editors recently recounted his experience with students from his Alma Mater on how Watergate would be covered in the digital age.

So I got them on a Sunday, and I came as close as I ever have to having an aneurysm, because the students wrote that, ‘Oh, you would just use the Internet and you’d go to “Nixon’s secret fund” and it would be there.’ …“That somehow the Internet was a magic lantern that lit up all events,” …And they went on to say the political environment would be so different that Nixon wouldn’t be believed, and bloggers and tweeters would be in a lather and Nixon would resign in a week or two weeks after Watergate.

The Washington Post article reported that the small ballroom of journalists found that notion riduclous and presumably, they were seasoned professionals. But if you asked any of my former classmates at Newhouse, or former professors, they’d all tell you that without the story, you have nothing to write about. Ever tried writing a thousand words without relevant quotes and adequate sources? Not a fun experience.

The Giga Om article states

Woodward (not surprisingly, perhaps) still seems to see journalism as something that lone-cowboy-style reporters do in secret by themselves, rather than a collaborative process that now involves other people…That view may be a lot more romantic, and it serves the purposes of journalists who see themselves as a special breed, with special powers that normal mortals don’t possess. It also serves the purposes of newspapers and other traditional media entities, which would like to be the sole source of all value in the media ecosystem. But it doesn’t really serve the purposes of journalism or society as a whole.

A news room is a live place – it’s noisy and loud. Journalism is collaborative by nature and I love GigaOM and their writers, but Woodward came to fame as part of a team- Woodward and Bernstein.

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