Thursday, August 16, 2007

Citizen Journalist Warning

Slightly off the usual book publishing subject, but still in line with the point of this blog - point? - I wanted to link to this interesting article from the Philadelphia Inquirer, which I found via MediaBistro. I really like their news summaries, btw.

Anyhow, the article by journalism professor Larry Atkins, talks about the values but also the dangers in our news media increasingly courting and relying upon citizen journalists. I'll leave the summary at that, and just put in this particularly powerful paragraph from the piece:
Mainstream media have their flaws, including incidents of plagiarism and ethical breaches. However, unlike the army of pajamarati bloggers sitting in their bedrooms, reporters are in the field cultivating sources, interviewing policymakers, investigating and fact-checking. For every insightful I-report, there are thousands of valuable articles, videos and photos produced by veteran reporters.

This is exactly it, especially that last part. We get so impressed, in this fast-paced age, with someone who can deliver something with speed, that we overlook precision or artistry or craft, and that's cheap and will leave us with a world of plastics, articles and books that are disposable immediately after consumption, that lose their worth a day later.

In publishing, I know for a fact that it would be difficult to get a book published about 9/11 now, or even Katrina, despite how necessary it is for us to re-evaluate these events after time has passed. Academics might be able to do it, but most trade houses, I would say, would turn down such projects as being done, and would miss out on the chance to publish something that truly stands the test of time.

These instant books that come out right away - I just saw one in the local Borders on the Duke University rape case (from evil Thomas Nelson) - have their place, but we can't over-prioritize them, or rather we do so at the risk of losing great books - and so, all books - in the very near future.

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