Thursday, March 29, 2007

"Citizen surgery"

Today at the American Society of Newspaper Editors conference in DC, there was a panel discussion, "Digital Media and the Future of Newspapers," recapped at HuffingtonPost. Read it, but let me point out my favorite nugget:
Mossberg got the most appreciative response of the panel during a discussion about citizen journalism — I believe Barry Diller asked Arianna exactly what it was, and Arianna explained that they weren't on assignment nor were they paid. "It's like citizen surgery!" said Mossberg. The crowd of hard-bitten newspaper-people clapped, and there may have been a few cheers.
That's a good lead-in to today's editorial in the Enquirer. The editorial is based on two stories this week: Dan Horn's good story about a convict being sent back to prison though he's been very nearly a model citizen since he was let out, and this tiny story about a drunk driver whose victims agreed to his early release.

The editorial says, "How do we know when someone has been 'punished enough'? When a lawbreaker owes 'a debt to society,' how exactly does society collect on that debt?" Unfortunately, that's the end of the editorial, not the beginning. Again, the editorial board dodges a big question, one that is exactly the type they should be answering.

Instead, the board punts. "Tell us what you think," the editorial asks. The editorial board fancies itself as leader of a "community conversation" on important topics of the day. You can't just ask a question. You have to provide a framework that shapes the issue and helps people to come up up with an answer. The editorial board constantly avoids taking positions on issues, so they don't know how to build that framework. The editorial is so lame it doesn't even provide links to the stories on which it is based.

And it looks like not many people want in on this conversation. By evening, after the editorial had been online all day, only six people had posted their opinions. Apparently, everybody else was busy with surgery.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

What happened to the Enquirer's Speak Up! feature? It was all over the paper, and their site, for about two weeks. Apparently they've had enough of people speaking up, because it seems to be gone. Gotta admit, some of those threas were ug-ly. I dunno if I want to know what Joe Public thinks either, since it's usually stupid or racist.

9:07 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

"Again, the editorial board dodges a big question, one that is exactly the type they should be answering. ...

You have to provide a framework that shapes the issue and helps people to come up up with an answer."

Well, which is it? Should the board "answer" the question or should the people? Can't have it both ways.

11:20 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Oh Al. Boring.

8:58 PM  
Anonymous Phantom Girl said...

Opinion is a dangerous thing to have. It means you stand for something, you recognize principles and you make an intellectual argument. In the new world of media as corporate cheerleaders for whatever power establishment entrenches, that means somone -- or some group -- might not like you. And you can't be disliked and still run with the crowd at the Queen City Club.

10:19 PM  
Blogger Newsache said...

You CAN have it both ways. State an opinion, and lay out how you arrived at that opinion. That's one way of showing people how to think about difficult issues. The Enquirer editorial board avoids taking stands in big controversies. Did they ever take a stand on Chiquita's payments to terrorists? Because they don't take positions on these issues, they don't know how to explain to others how to do it. You can't just state a few facts and ask people what they think. That's lazy and it's worthless in helping communities solve important problems.

11:30 AM  

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