Trust in the Media: Closing It Out

I want to thank everyone who participated in the discussion this week about Trust in the Media. Its just about time to wind down this part of the discussion and for me to pass the moderator baton to one of my colleagues. The next area of focus as we lead up to the We Media Global Forum in London is the role of media in the connected society and how media is changing our world. Before the next conversation begins, however, I have a couple quick thoughts I want to share.

We have spent much of this past week examining trust in the old media from through a perspective as new media evangelists. I think one of the elements that ties our discussion together is the shared belief we have that media and journalism must change, if it isn’t changing already. It doesn’t matter what the delivery mechanism for the news is — print, online, mobile, word of mouth — the way people produce, receive, and share information is changing. And that has substantial impact on our society.

This morning I was thinking about ‘new media’ and its open, transparent, quick-delivery, participatory elements and wondering how they will actually change journalism and people’s perceptions of it. What impact will that have on our trust in the media? Is it a good thing, these changes we are advocating for in the media? Are we fooling ourselves — is this new media discussion just a playground for intellectuals and people in the media business looking to monetize information? And as news consumers, do we have to choose between the things we want – substance, objectivity, emotion, personalization, speed, accuracy, trust, and on and on – or can we have it all?

Whoa, Brian. Where did that come from?

In this morning’s Boston Globe, venerable columnist Ellen Goodman argues that Bloggers Owe Jill Carroll an Apology. Jill Carroll is, of course, is the Christian Science Monitor reporter who was held hostage for three months in Iraq and released last week. We all know the story.

Goodman writes:

“In the hours between captivity and true freedom, Carroll was seen in one propaganda film describing the mujahideen as ”good people fighting an honorable fight” and in another interview saying she was never threatened.”

You quickly come to understand that Ellen Goodman believes (and why shouldn’t she) that Jill Carroll was forced to present these beliefs and that her statements were coerced. In short, Goodman trusts Carroll. Some in the blogosphere were not as kind to Jill Carroll. Some in the blogosphere don’t trust Carroll.

Again, from Goodman:

“The printouts on my desk describe the 28-year-old journalist, a hostage and victim for 82 terrifying days, as something between Patty Hearst and Baghdad Jane, between a traitor and ”Princess Jill.” TBone posted a potshot, calling Carroll ”a liar” and the kidnapping ”a total scam.” PA Pundits said that ”I still just can’t get past her being (for the most part) unharmed.” And Debbie Schlussel called her a ”spoiled brat America-hater.”

I’m not so interested in the debate about whether the blogs acted appropriately (I don’t believe they did) or whether Goodman’s old-media dinosaur righteousness is appropriate (I don’t – generalizing is unfair). There is, of course, something ironic about the fact that Ellen Goodman was reading the commentary from Jill Carroll’s detractors in the blogosphere on printouts – and she knows it, that’s why she pointed it out in her column.

No, I’m interested in whether situations like these – like the liberal blogosphere’s attacks on Ben Domenech last week, whether the blogosphere’s attacks on the Washington Post Ombudsman, Deborah Howell – will have an impact on whether people regain trust in the media when it has a more human face. I’m curious whether the future of journalism looks more like us as a people – occasionally rash in our judgment, unfortunately intolerant at times in our commentary, and so on.

Ellen Goodman writes:

“These attacks raise the question of what bloggery is going to be when it grows up. An Internet op-ed page? Or a polarized, talk-radio food fight?”… “If newspapers are the first rough draft of history, a blog is like reading a never-ending draft as it’s being written and published, mostly unedited, without standards or correction boxes.”

Read the whole column and consider it for yourself. Post your thoughts if you like. Maybe even carry a bit of this conversation over to the next topic – about the connected society and how media is changing our world. It seems appropriate, doesn’t it?

And with that, I hand over the baton.

TAG: wemedia

Previous Comments

As an old fashioned print person–managing editor of the Toronto Globe and Mail 1963-78–but one who did not have to hauled kicking and screaming in to the new media age–chair of the Southam Inc. cross divisional oversight committee on New Technology 1989-92–I still feel strongly that the basis of good journalism, however delivered, is strong reporting and informed commentary.

Blogging and other fringe vehicles of comment and opinion must be seen as invitations to what too many of them have already become–spur of the moment judgements based on inadequate information and fed by strong personal bias or warped vested interest.

I can only hope that the shared, reciprocal trust we have had with information consumers will continue to reward the trustworthy and delete the rest,

Are we fooling ourselves — is this new media discussion just a playground for intellectuals and people in the media business looking to monetize information?

Yes but I’d love you to prove me wrong…

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