Author Archives: Jeff Jarvis
April 22nd, 2013
I often tell my students that where they see a problem, they should find the opportunity. Well, we’ve been told over and over this weekend that we had a big problem with misinformation after the Boston Marathon bombing. Breaking news, haven’t you heard, is broken.
So I see an opportunity, a big journalistic opportunity. I also tell my students this:
* Journalism should add value to a flow of information that can now occur without media’s mediation — verifying facts, vetting witnesses, debunking rumors, adding context, adding explanation, and most of all asking and answering the questions that aren’t in the flow, that aren’t being asked, i.e., reporting. Let’s acknowledge reality: There’s no stopping or fixing that flow. What witnesses see will be shared for all to see, which is good, along with rumors, rank speculation, and the work of the New York Fucking Post, which is bad.
* The key skill of journalism today is saying what we *don’t* know, issuing caveats and also inviting the public to tell us what they know. Note I didn’t say I want the public to tell us what they *think* or *guess.* I said *know*.
April 16th, 2013
The attack on the Boston Marathon was designed to maximize media coverage: a popular event with cameras everywhere and a narrative that will be sure to follow about innocent enjoyment henceforth ruined by danger.
For years, we’ve been told to fear this: an attack on a football game or at Disneyland or in a mall, someplace without fear before. Instead, it happened at the marathon. No matter who committed this crime, a precedent is now set for those that unfortunately will follow. Now every time there is a popular event with many cameras that is open — not easily contained like a stadium — we will be taught to worry.
A few weeks ago in New Delhi, I stayed in a hotel that happened to be owned by the same company that suffered the terrorist attack in Mumbai. Every car coming in was searched; every guest went through a metal detector; every guest’s bag went through an X-ray. We’re accustomed to such circumstantial security in America: If a shoe is used to make a bomb, all shoes are dangerous. In India, hotels are dangerous. In America, not just office buildings and airports but now public events are threatened.
June 29th, 2012
I was just asked about CNN’s, Fox’s, and others’ screw-ups with the announcement of the Supreme Court health decision in the context of process journalism. I disagreed with the characterization. My response:
I could not disagree more strongly with your characterization of this as an error of process journalism. Hardly!
This was not a matter of reporting what you know when you know it. This was a matter of reporting your misunderstandings before you know enough to say that you know anything.
The entire decision was made and written. CNN, Fox, and others listened to a bit and went with it.
May 27th, 2012
The New Orleans Times-Picayune and three other Newhouse papers in Alabama are cutting publication to three times a week.
The cost of printing seven days a week is becoming unsustainable. It’s still profitable to print two or three days a week, not because those are the only days when news happens but because newspapers are still in the distribution business and those are the most lucrative — still-lucrative — days to distribute inserted and printed ads.
That could change again when and if (a) newspaper circulation falls below the critical mass needed to distribute coupons and circulars and (b) local advertisers become more savvy and finally move online themselves. Then printing and distributing paper will become even less profitable, even less sustainable. That’s when print could — mind you, I didn’t say “will” as I’m not predicting the form’s demise; I repeat, “could” — disappear.
By then, newspapers had better be ready. That is, they had better have become digital companies. That is the essence of the digital first strategy: become sustainable, successful online companies that can survive without (or with) print. And grow again from there.
February 27th, 2012
Email and communication are badly broken and the solution isn’t so much new technology as new norms. We need to redefine “rude.”
The problem is clear: If you’re like me, you get so much email that you can’t possibly answer it promptly if at all, and messages that do matter get lost under mountains of rubbish. Under old norms — from the era of letters and phone calls and knocks on doors — ignoring a message would be considered rude.
Perhaps what should be considered rude today is expecting you to immediately answer a message you didn’t ask for.