Apr 17, 2009

Breaking: Partisanship will survive the death of newspapers

Was someone worried Daily Kos would disappear if newspaper journalism dried up? Apparently, because founder Markos Moulitsas decided he should do a little research to determine just where the popular progressive blog gets the information it react to.

Moulitsas mined six days of material (April 6-12) and discovered a majority of posts used newspapers as a primary or secondary source (102 primary, 21 secondary), followed by blogs (83 primary, 19 secondary).

His conclusion: "In the unlikely and tragic event that every single newspaper went out of business today, we'd have little problem replacing them as a source of information."

My conclusion: So what?

The whole evaluation here is based on a flawed assumption. Information flows in torrents and anyone with a cup can fill theirs for free. Newspapers do not make information, they gather it from many streams and sources to make meaning. They pay people to return over and over to the same sources of information to look for nuance or inconsistencies. They take risks to get at streams that others don't want them to see or that originate in places most others dare not travel to. At their best, newspapers also hold back mighty flows of misinformation, opinionation, and sundry nonsense unleashed by powerful, the partisan and the self-interested.

Newspapers (as a concept, not as a printed object) attempt to be stewards of information for the good of the general public; Daily Kos, and publications like it, use information to push their agenda. One is not a substitute for the other, but in the hierarchy of democracy the former is by far the more precious commodity. So maybe the metric that matters is how often Daily Kos is a primary or secondary source for newspapers - and let's all just agree that opinion is in no danger of going extinct.

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