Another big challenge for the old way of doing things

There is a fascinating discussion underway via the web that has absolutely profound implications for the world of journalism. You can tune in here for the summary by Jeff Jarvis, and I won’t begin to rewrite Jeff’s excellent overview.

In a nutshell, Wired Magazine is doing a story about Michael Arrington of TechCrunch. Michael’s a lightning rod, and my guess is Wired finds this interesting. Wired wants to interview others about Arrington, including Jason Calacanis and Dave Winer, both of whom know him well. Well, Jason and Dave want the interviews done via email, a technique I personally find increasingly useful. Wired doesn’t want that, and so the whole matter is being openly discussed in the blogosphere and eventually, one hopes, in the mainstream press.

Here’s part of what Winer wrote to the Wired reporter:

“Not generally doing interviews these days. If you have a few questions, send them along, and if I have something to say, I’ll write a blog post, which of course you’re free to quote. Sorry that’s about the best I can do.”

Here’s a portion of the Calacanis reply:

I’m an email guy like dave winer.. And I own my words as well, and often print them on my blog (after stories come out).

A wired writer who won’t do an email interview–thats ironic!

Frankly, you need to adapt. Journalists have misquoted people for so long–and quoted them out of context that many people like to have their words on record.

I don’t want someone taking half a sentence or paraphrasing me… Just too much risk.

Besides I have 10,000 people come to my blog every day–i don’t need wired to talk to the tech industry.

What’s emerging in the world of news is that the empowerment of the individual now makes it possible for the interviewee to publish the entire interview him or herself, thereby providing a “check” on the spin of the interviewer. This is something new in the world of journalism, and it’s especially helpful to people who’ve been burned by reporters.

You have to sit back and think about this for a minute, because such a concept completely upsets the idea of an objective press. If, after all, objectivity is what matters, then why would anyone fear their whole interview being published? If it’s all about “just the facts, ma’am,” then why would any professional journalist care?

The problem is that’s all crap, and this idea blows the curtain away from whatever was left of the concept of objectivity in the press. It never was real. Reporters want (in fact, think they have a right) to infer meaning from the tone of interviews and have the liberty to embellish paraphrase quotes for the sake of the story.

It’s all about control, folks, not facts.

Think about your own life as a journalist. How comfortable would you be if everyone you interviewed was able to publish the raw interview in some form? You wouldn’t, because YOU’RE the one telling “the story.” It’s YOUR story, right? (Did you see/read MY story last night?) You need the ability to interject quotes as you see fit in telling “the story,” because “the story” is what you say it is.

This is why this whole business of defending the professional press in the wake of the personal media revolution is so problematic. The rules simply have changed. The deer have guns.

We’re going to have to learn to do things differently.

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