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Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Has Journalism Reached an All-Time Low?

I savor the opportunity to read great writing but bad writing hurts my head more than listening to long fingernails slowly scratching a chalkboard. One must be careful about becoming too nostalgic for the "good old days" but I am very concerned about the future of journalism. Long form, in depth, well researched articles have been replaced by tweets--the triumph of instant, thoughtless reaction over thoughtful deliberation. Examples of this trend abound, from the premature (and thankfully false) reports of Congresswoman Giffords' death to the babbling about Jay Cutler's body language on the sidelines during Sunday's NFC Championship Game. I have exposed many examples of the low journalistic standards that prevail specifically within the realm of NBA journalism and in the comments section of one of those critiques I correctly predicted that the unqualified writer whose work I completely refuted would no doubt advance further up the ranks (he currently "writes"--and I use that term loosely--for NBC's NBA website); that prediction did not require psychic powers but merely the sad realization that what advances one's career today in journalism is not the quality and depth of one's work but rather the quantity and depth of one's brown-nosing.

Paraphrasing a line that Bill Walton often uses, I am old enough to remember when Tony Kornheiser was an outstanding sportswriter for a variety of outlets instead of being a high paid television personality who seeks out cheap laughs. TV's big dollars have enriched individual writers at the expense of cheapening the quality of their work. Perhaps I should not single out Kornheiser, because many other great (and some not so great) writers have forsaken the dying newspaper industry for big TV money, but I think that Kornheiser's fall is particularly painful because of the unquestionable depth of his talent; he is smart, witty and insightful, despite his best efforts to hide those qualities now. Few writers display the self awareness and ambivalence that Woody Paige expressed to me about transforming himself from a serious writer to a TV jokester.

It has been obvious for quite some time that the future of journalism lies not with print publications but rather on the internet; it is disheartening that the sites that attract the most page views contain the crassest, most low brow content. I fervently believe that there is a large audience that not only seeks but craves intelligent, well written content but it is difficult for those readers to find such content providers in today's large cesspool of multimedia dreck. Intelligent writers and intelligent readers must fight the good fight against poor quality journalism and work together to carve out a commercially viable niche for high quality journalism.

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posted by David Friedman @ 6:05 PM