By Steve Outing
Editor & Publisher Online published some of the letters from folks who hated my most recent column. Here.
I’l resist debating everyone, but this particular statement galled me:
… Advocacy journalism involves artfully telling the reader what they should think, Steve, not the other way around. Its great practitioners, from Ida Tarbell to John Stewart, don’t waste time on such self-important navel gazing.
That was from someone at a newspaper (I’m not surprised), and it falls into the trap of failing to understand the nature of the media transformation we’re in the middle of. It presupposes that only the anoited few have the power and influence to engage in advocacy journalism. Hey, Jon Stewart is great, and his wonderfully expressed opinions no doubt influence a lot of people on political issues. But the revolution in digital media, which gives everyone the “power of the press,” to an extent, means that people really do have power nowadays — and the masses through various interactive digital media can be equally as influential.
A creative and powerful amateur video, spread virally on Youtube, may get more viewers than an episode of The Daily Show. A swarm of bloggers advocating on a particular issue can make huge waves.
And one more thing. (I know, I said I really didn’t want to go overboard on reacting to this controversy, but …) Some of the letters E&P published are from journalists, who berate me for suggesting that a newspaper might advocate on an issue. Yet their papers all have editorial pages that routinely advocate on all sorts of things. But the suggestion that on a critical issue a newspaper cannot go beyond the editorial or op-ed page is viewed as heresy. Well, that strikes me as an anachronism in today’s media environment.
The world is changing folks. Stop hanging on to a past media “nirvana” that has plenty of issues of its own.