Sign of the Times

SXSWi panelists ponder media ecosystem in a NY Times-free world

Sign of the Times
photo by Gary Miller

Big news: Snooki is coming to South by Southwest this year. This breaking news was touted by New York Times media critic David Carr as some of the value real-time sites like Twitter can have in spreading info. But what if user-generated, unverified news streams became our only sources?

“Media Armageddon: What Happens When the New York Times Dies” was posited as a conversation about just that topic, but despite the specificity of the topic, it’s really applicable to the search for a true north – here, exemplified by the Paper of Record – in a media environment inundated by tweets, status updates, and fast moving blogs.

The most pointed barbs on the panel, moderated by Blogads founder Henry Copeland, came between Carr and Daily Kos founder Markos Moulitsas, who cited examples of the Times’ failings – most prominently, the hawkish administration stenography of Judith Miller in the run-up to the Iraq war – as part of the reason readers turn away from traditional media outlets. “We don’t have that built in credibility,” Moulitsas said of his site vis a vis the Times. “We have to prove ourselves every single day.”

Still, the panelists recognized the value inherit in dedicated reporting. Returning to the Snooki example above, Carr noted information can spread easily via social networks, but no one on the site will keep reporters in the crossfires of the ongoing Mexican drug war, or chase lost Iraq reconstruction dollars for a few tweets. The trouble with tweeting was exemplified further still a little later, as panelist Amy Langfield of NewYorkology spoke on a Twitter-fueled dirty bomb scare in Grand Central Station earlier this year. Tweeps were “passing info along, not knowing what the source was.” However, as Reason blogger Greg Beato pointed out a minute later, free channels like Twitter “aren’t going to be any less used” dependent upon the stability of the Times."

In short, there were no easy answers presented to the ongoing dearth of investigative reporting the panel lamented. As Carr said early in the panel, “the web is still mostly about annotating that which is in plain sight,” but it’s “growing muscle.”

Time to hit the gym, bloggers.

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SXSW, Media, SXSW panels, David Carr, Greg Beato, Markos Moulitsas, Amy Langfield, Henry Copeland

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