Quote of the week

News, Greg Beato points out in Reason, is actually doing just fine on the Web:

While newspaper loyalists are forever touting the original reporting that appears in your morning fish wrap as the factor that distinguishes it from the hordes of opinion-spouting bloggers, what the Web has really revealed is how much territory newspapers have left either underreported or completely untouched. Newspapers never systematically reviewed school-teachers, for example, and now they’ve been scooped by the angry third-grade muckrakers who post at RateMyTeacher.com. They never systematically reviewed the lying, cheating “dumpster dawgs” that women should avoid at all costs, but the citizen journalists at DontDateHimGirl.com cover such territory thoroughly, supplying names, addresses, employer information, and more. When I want to learn something about the new hardware store that just opened in my neighborhood, I find the answers at Yelp.com, not in the San Francisco Chronicle. When I want to know what all those sirens that woke me up last night were responding to, I search for clues on Everyblock.com. Call this information trivial if you like, but it’s certainly serving the local public interest in a way that, say, a New York Times dispatch from the front lines of the fish wars on East Africa’s Migingo Island can’t touch.

That’s not to say that old-fashioned reporting isn’t hard and valuable work. It is, and as David Simon, former reporter turned champion of soon-to-be-former reporters and creator of The Wire, explained at John Kerry’s Senate panel on the “future of journalism” last May, it’s no job for part-timers and gadflies. It “requires daily, full-time commitment by trained men and women who return to the same beats day in and day out until the best of them know everything with which a given institution is contending.”

And, Robert Stacy McCain might add, shoe leather:

What’s great about being a freelancer is that, if I’ve got an idea for a story, I basically assign myself to it. So last March, I called up my editor at the Spectator, told him that Hillary would be appearing within a few hours’ drive of my house, he said, “OK,” and off I went.

Kind of cool, especially after so many years of being stuck in the office most days as an assistant editor on the national desk at The Washington Times. Going out on the road to cover a story reminds me of my glorious younger days as a small-town sports editor, rolling down the highway en route to a big track meet or basketball tournament.

Maybe someday McCain will get a chance to cover the fish wars on East Africa’s Migingo Island.


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