So many people, especially bloggers, seem to believe that they are riding a wave, on the backs of the sinking mainstream media. Newspapers, magazines, the three big mainstream TV networks, are quickly fading and we are seeing a shift to the Internet as the place where people get their news. What's more, this news doesn't have to come from stuffy, biased "journalists," who must clear what they write with editors and publishers, it can come from anyone with a desire to report and access to a keyboard (or even just a phone!).
But think for a minute, of all the Web sites and blogs that publish "news" and look at the source of the news. The overwhelming majority of the "news" on most Web sites and blogs was generated by an engine of the evil, out of touch, mainstream media, whether it be a newspaper or magazine or major network. Take, for instance, sites such as Chicagoist, Gaper's Block, Second City Cop, or even one I like a lot, the Beachwood Reporter. Now imagine what those sites would look like if there was no Sun-Times, Tribune, Daily Herald or Crain's for them to pilfer from -- they would have nothing. There'd be the odd interview or band feature on Chicagoist, there'd be a hell of a lot of bitching and pissing and moaning and blaming at SCC, the Beachwood would be empty, because newspapers are all that site really bitches and moans about, and a host of other "news" collecting sites would be barren, because these online pickpockets (thank you Mr. Steinberg for that phrase) would have nothing to pickpocket. There would be no comments, because they wouldn't have news stories to copy and paste and then run comments about. Other sites, such as the take your cease and desist order and shove it Chicago's Daily News would be running the same old irrelevant feature stories from college "interns," meaningless crime stories, dictation from CAPS meetings and university-generated releases on some study, calling it all "news."
Pardon me for a second for protecting my domain here, but I got perturbed today when, as they do from time to time, one of these sites posted a video from YouTube of a bullet hole in a hotel window and called it an "exclusive." Then, when it was inevitably picked up by the Trib/WGN/CLTV/Sun-Times and the rest of the city's legitimate media, the same site howled about how the slow, overpaid, dying major media were relying on Web sites and "citizen journalists" like them to do their work for them. What utter bullshit.
Newspapers may be dying, but it's not because of single-issue, incredibly biased, I'll post when I can spare the time bloggers and citizen journalists. It's because they can't figure out a way to keep their advertisers. The idea that these folks puff up their chests and bang their drums when they get what they think to be an "exclusive" is a joke, as well. You post a video from YouTube before anyone else does and that's an "exclusive"? Where's the interview with the guy who was staying in the hotel room when the bullet whizzed by him and his wife and child -- Kevin Allen, who is not even classified as a "reporter" at the Sun-Times (it's a union thing) was somehow able to track the guy down and talk to him, and not merely copy and paste a video and shout, "Take that Daley! Take that, stupid Media!" The hardworking people I work with break exclusives and scoops many times an hour, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year. Though I admire the enormous, challenging endeavor he has undertaken, Geoff Dougherty's claim, which he made in the Chicago Reader earlier this year, that his Web site (whose columns and stories are updated every few days, except on holidays, when there is an even greater distance between fresh content) "regularly scoops the Tribune and Sun-Times on matters of citywide importance," is, oh, how do I say it ... crap.
If people who have Web sites and blogs want to play reporter, well, then, do the work, don't waste time on irrelevant crap, keep your opinions (especially of yourself) to yourself and when you make a good play, as the sports commentators often say, act like you've done it before. And when someone else starts to report on something you previously reported on, take a little pleasure in the fact that you beat them, but then shut up and keep working on what's next.
And if you believe so fervently that newspapers are lazy, out of touch, old, dying, worthless, politically biased and soon to part of some great big media scrap heap, then stop pilfering from them to generate your own damned news.