The Old Gray Lady has broken a hip and fallen down the journalistic steps. Can she get back up? Maybe, but a couple more spills like this and the general public may forge her signature on a “do not resuscitate” order and continue to flock to cyberspace to find a permanent replacement for their news needs.
After it was discovered that Jayson Blair, a reporter for the New York Times, was a pathological fabricator, the paper published a 7,500-word piece in its Sunday edition outlining some of Blair’s bogus stories – many of which contained as much truth as your average Internet chat room, minus the 55-year-old men with call signs like “HottGirrl69.”
The newspaper industry, namely the large ones, are usually self-promoted as being “above the fray.” They consider themselves to be not in an ordinary business, but as participants in a time-honored American institution, one that is beyond reproach in truth and integrity. They hold in their pen the power to expose fraud, deceit, racism, plagiarism, upheaval and illicit behavior – sometimes all in the same senate office.
This is not really about Jayson Blair as much as it is about an industry – excuse me, an “American institution,” that has run away with itself. This is often an institution that doesn’t think its own excrement stinks – and why would they? It’s out their door and flung onto our front porches before they have time to take an olfactory sample of it. While the people at the Times attempt to steer their behemoth ship with too small a rudder around all the icebergs, smaller boats are zipping around them, and it’s got to be ticking them off.
In the mid 1400s, when Johann Gutenberg invented the printing press, the elite began suffering from night sweats of epic proportions over the ability of “ordinary people” to distribute and disseminate information to the masses. Now, over 550 years after Gutenberg’s invention, some of those who would have been classified as the feared “ordinary people” in 1450 are finding that they have now become the elite. These people now fear the new printing press, namely the Internet, and the turned-off readers of print papers are switching to it in droves, while confused newspaper executives end up looking like the Skipper and his Little Buddy trying to steer the SS Minnow through the storm in the opening credits of “Gilligan’s Island.”
Internet news sites are often laughed off as non-credible gossip by some of the mossy, petrified forest of newspaper tycoons who still refuse to admit the fact that father time is giving them a reality enema. WorldNetDaily, for example, recently went through a long and costly battle simply to allow a reporter access to Congress. I guess they didn’t have the credibility of the New York Times.
The downside in the legal victory for WorldNetDaily is that now they have a reporter who must come face to face with that psychotic hobbit, Helen Thomas, on a daily basis. This indeed must make the victory bittersweet, but I digress.
The Old Media competes against this relatively new arena for news and ideas by attempting to discredit it, just as the elite did when Gutenberg mass produced his first pages. Since we’re often confused by that which we don’t understand, I suspect that much of this bashing by large media of Internet news is due to there still being plenty of geriatric “idiot son” type newspaper publishers out there who can only stare at a computer in confused amazement – their heads cocked to the side like golden retrievers listening to a Steven Hawking lecture.
The “Old Gray Lady” is living up to her name as time marches by. She begins by driving slow with the turn signal on, progresses toward calling all the grandchildren by the wrong names, wearing a shawl when it’s 94 degrees out and ends with delusional, fabricated stories about the time Stonewall Jackson asked her to marry him. The Times is already in these final stages, and they’ll have to find a sufficient dose of journalistic medicine quickly if they’re to survive.
The star of Internet news is on the rise, and while the New York Times continues to chase its own tail trying to figure out what’s wrong via internal townhall-style meetings, politically correct pow-wows and bureaucratic cluster undulations, they’re getting scooped on stories. The day may soon come when they will peer into the night sky to see that the bright light that once represented them in the constellation Credibility has been replaced.