Written by Noemi Pollack on March 22, 2011.
This very provocative consideration was posed by none other than Bill Keller, executive editor of the New York Times, in an article in the NYT’s Sunday magazine section on March 10. Although published a little more than a week ago, the article titled, “All the Aggregation That’s Fit to Aggregate” offers enough thought provoking discussion points about whether or not Media and journalism are really synonymous, to trigger many more such conversations.
Keller’s point that, “we in Media have transcended earthbound activities like reporting, writing or picture-taking and created an abstraction — a derivative — called Media, in which we invest our attention and esteem,” is well taken, albeit likely to be perceived, by a great swath of consumers of news, as an old- fashioned point of view. Especially so, when he goes on to say that, “our fascination with capital-M Media is so disengaged from what really matters.” His point as to what matters, is that it is still the credentialed journalists that cover history-in-the-making, while others indulge in “the orgy of self-reference (which) is so indiscriminate, so trivializing.”
Keller supports that point with the observation that “some once-serious news outlets give pride of place not to stories they think important but to stories that are “trending” on Twitter — the “American Idol”-ization of news. And we have bestowed our highest honor — market valuation — not on those who labor over the making of original journalism, but on aggregation.”
Keller has little respect for aggregated media, which used to be called “plagiarized” media, but which now has become the “new normal” media — whose whole existence is to regurgitate what someone else already did. However, the reality is that news aggregation is actually a necessary outcome of the radical explosion of information of the past decade and news aggregators have become the best means for the average consumer of information to be able to reasonably digest even a fraction of this explosion.
From Keller’s vantage point, that as caretaker of some of the world’s best news “originators,” it is clearly an affront to have their work repurposed and repackaged. Moreover, since aggregators fall under the new “normaI” category they have often dumped journalists into the “old” media category rather than the well-deserved elevated category of “originators of news.” Aggregators are now generally positioned on equal par with those that travel the world, under difficult circumstances, to garner the news. In other words, in becoming a new news medium, aggregators have garnered undue respect, which seemingly continues to rankle the likes of Keller. Just consider as to what you hear more often, “Oh, I just read it on the HuffPost,” or, “just saw it in the Washington Post,” for example.
I offer a different perspective, however. The real objection that I have is not about the aggregation of news in general, but rather that aggregators get to choose the news that fits interests relevant to each one’s “seeming or expressed” preference, profile or demographic, and therefore limit the exposure to the gamut of news. I prefer to be the decider of what news I consume and therefore will continue to take the time to peruse favorite publications and then individually decide, on a moment-by-moment basis, what news I wish to consume.
Anyway, the times are a-changing. Since we live in a society where price very often is akin to value, I think that the NYT is playing it smart by throwing up a pay wall for receiving the news online, which is about to happen. You get what you pay for, right?