In news that startled a bit this week, two major names in journalism in the US announced their departure from their star posts in traditional media to sign on to new media.
The New York Times lost economic reporter Peter Goodman. The struggling Newsweek lost political columnist Howard Fineman. Both of these prominent journalists have just joined the staff of one of new media’s most visible success stories, The Huffington Post.
Goodman was interviewed by the Washington Post about his big jump (“Huffington snags N.Y. Times star” Howard Kurtz, Sept 21, 2010). Goodman told Kurtz, “For me it’s a chance to write with a point of view… It’s sort of the age of the columnist. With the dysfunctional political system, old conventional notions of fairness make it hard to tell readers directly what’s going on. This is a chance for me to explore solutions in my economic reporting.”
Goodman went to to express dissatisfaction about a confining aspect of the process of reporting imposed on him by the gray lady Times.
I’m also convinced that a big part of what’s happening is a sound one from a journalistic sense: That is, reporters want to be liberated from the lazy-journalism tyranny of the idiotic notion that there are two equal sides to everything — do a story on the Holocaust, get a quote from a neo-Nazi — and they grasp better than their old-media editors do that human voice is the heart of story-telling.
Gillmor linked to a related post on Goodman and Fineman by Salon co-founder and author Scott Rosenberg. In his post, Rosenberg voiced sympathy with some of the huge, older news organizations (“Journalists follow their voices, vote with their feet” Sept 22, 2010).
Rosenberg particularly noted the “phenomenal-sized audience” of Yahoo News, and the “blue-chip” reputation” of the NY Times. This constrains them to be more cautious in their ways, he wrote.
The challenge for their [Times and Yahoo] managers is a subtle one: How to infuse their coverage with the distinctive human voices of journalistic observers who no longer wish to suppress their personal perspectives, while also insuring that the big megaphones they own do not turn into amplifiers of treacherous rumors, personal vendettas, or partisan lies. (Fox News provides a handy negative exemplar here.)