Bloggers Need News Too

“The New York Times is out of cash, Tribune Co. is bankrupt, CBS is going to be broken up into little-bitty pieces and 525 magazines closed last year alone. With the demise of all these various forms of media, you’d think that bloggers would be happy to see their main competition defeated. But you couldn’t be more wrong.” So begins an interesting piece — Why We Still Need the Mainstream Media — yesterday in David Hauslaib’s Jossip.

Its general thesis: Bloggers and many other online “news” providers just comment on facts, ideas or developments that were initially reported elsewhere. (As, indeed, I am doing here.) Although I and a few others sometimes base our blogs on original reporting (such as the blog I’ll be posting immediately after this one), that’s far from the rule. So most bloggers would have nothing to comment on if real news reports — which require interviews, synthesis of numbers or reports, and/or identification of trends — all dried up.

We in the mainstream media — sometimes referred to as the MSM — set agendas, of sorts. We identify what is fodder for further rumination. Without the content that Science News, the Times and others generate, we’d all be left sifting through jabberwocky. Chemists wouldn’t be able to make out the significance of that new math proof, members of Congress wouldn’t be able to understand caveats unearthed in a new clinical trial of a heart drug, and nurses couldn’t quickly understand how and when light-emitting diodes are likely to change their lives.

Fewer people than ever before want to pay for the generation of news. So many turn instead to free, if derivative, blogs. Blogs are good for comment and analysis but are, overall, an unreliable and erratic source of information.

There’s no way to do good, reliable journalism on the cheap. Blogging yes. News generation — no.

Indeed, as a rule we have to chase news, wherever it happens. This requires long phone calls, visits to labs, or attendance at out-of-town meetings. The salaries, overhead, hefty phone and travel budgets, and especially our access to IT professionals (who keep electronic-lifelines operational) are deceptively expensive. But a must.

So we should all see it as a social and cultural loss when news media die. Although imperfect, news media are, for all of their blemishes, still provide a constant source of continuing education to all (especially the blogosphere) — and at bargain prices.

Janet Raloff

Janet Raloff is the Editor, Digital of Science News Explores, a daily online magazine for middle school students. She started at Science News in 1977 as the environment and policy writer, specializing in toxicology. To her never-ending surprise, her daughter became a toxicologist.

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