Dec 12, 2007

Inside the outside game

Reporters used to struggle to get inside the halls of power to give readers an inside view on what goes down. Then the halls of power woke up one day and realized that they could do better by getting themselves inside the newsroom.

Newsrooms, no longer willing to divorce themselves from influence and weakened by panic over profit, saw a chance to make money and build a brand. After all, the people we write about must have something going for them if we're writing about them. So why not cut out the middle man?

Hamilton Nolan at PRWeek (remember when PR was the kiss of death for a journalist because of our old-fashioned ethics?) says the cross-breeding has created a monster than sucks resources from real reporting and gives news organizations the bias label they used to run from.

Still, the fact remains that the practice, on a macro level, is an unhealthy one. First, the more it happens, the more the public will associate news outlets with condoning partisanship.

Second, because in this era of nearly universal newsroom layoffs, the money could be better spent on real reporting.

And finally, because no amount of public assurances can guarantee that a "contributor" - particularly one who comes directly from a political communications operation - will ever do anything but spout talking points designed to reinforce their own political party.

His ultimate point: Why not simply interview the Chris Matthews of the world if you want their opinion? Instead we hire them to interview James Carville and Robert Novak and pretend we're watching inside baseball.

The outlaws are dead.