Pros vs. Pajamas: The trope that will not die.

The zombie lives, this time in an op-ed in the WSJ from the Newark Star-Ledger’s Paul Mulshine, who conflates the shout of “Copy!” and the pounding of six-part carbons with some golden age of “real” journalism that the modern internetses are killing:

When my colleague at the Newark Star-Ledger John Farmer started off in journalism more than five decades ago, things were very different. After covering a political event, he’d hop on the campaign bus, pull out a typewriter, and start banging out copy. As the bus would pull into a town, he’d ball up a finished page and toss it out the window. There a runner would scoop it up and rush it off to a telegraph station where it would be blasted back to the home office.

At the time, reporters thought this method was high-tech. Now, thanks to the Internet, a writer can file a story instantly from anywhere. It’s incredibly convenient, but that same technology is killing old-fashioned newspapers. Some tell us that that’s a good thing. I disagree and believe that the public will miss us once we’re gone.

Why are newspapers disappearing? Those damned bloggers in their pajamas:

The problem is that printing a hard copy of a publication packed with solid, interesting reporting isn’t a guarantee of economic success in the age of instant news. Blogger Glenn Reynolds of “Instapundit” fame seems to be pleased at this. In his book, “An Army of Davids,” Mr. Reynolds heralds an era in which “[m]illions of Americans who were in awe of the punditocracy now realize that anyone can do this stuff.”

No, they can’t. Millions of American can’t even pronounce “pundit,” or spell it for that matter. On the Internet and on the other form of “alternative media,” talk radio, a disliked pundit has roughly a 50-50 chance of being derided as a “pundint,” if my eyes and ears are any indication.

The type of person who can’t even keep track of the number of times the letter “N” appears in a two-syllable word is not the type of person who is going to offer great insight into complex issues.

I agree with this: It sucks that journalists are losing jobs and that newspapers are failing. But the marketplace of ideas is not a zero-sum game. And just because the author seems to have run across an inordinate number of people who are unable to pronounce the word “pundit” that’s no reason to dismiss the whole of the blogosphere, as he does.

And it’s a sham argument anyway. I’d bet that a sizable percentage of any newspaper’s readership is equally idea- and spelling-challenged. The leaders of the social media movement are no more average members of the rabble than are the ink-stained wretches Munshine beatifies here. Reporters, pundits, thought-leaders — whether in print or pixels — become who they are because of the value of their skills and ideas, not the medium they choose to disseminate them.

The bigger question is this: who will do the reporting, and who will pay for it? If newspaper companies get smart about business models and stop trying to prop up the old institutions of ink and paper, there’s a very good chance that they will survive. But they will survive in a world where Reynolds and others have an equal share of the voice, assuming the quality of what they’re saying is high enough to warrant attention.

Tim Windsor

VP, Content & Conversion at LendingPoint LLC
I lead media companies and other organizations that want to develop and improve their mobile and digital strategies and technologies, grow audience, and build sustainable digital revenue.