Monday, November 17, 2008

going dark

So last week we got into a discussion about digital news, cable TV and traditional journalism -- all pegged to this story on Martin Eisenstadt, the anonymous McCain staffer who was reported to have leaked the much-told tale that Sarah Palin did not know that Africa was a continent.

Cable chatterers, from both sides of the dial, ate it up. We all did.


There is no Eisenstadt. He never worked on McCain's campaign. Even if he did, he doesn't know Palin from six bits. And his blog? Yeah, it's a hoax.

The question was how could journalists report anything like that without checking it out, and whether blogs and youtube tend to enable sloppyy reporting.

Chitchat evolved into a debate about political reporting, cable news itself, and whether any original journalism goes on there at all -- with one student, who may have been channeling Chris Matthews, finally saying that by the time night falls, everyone already knows what's happened anyway, so if folks tune in at all, all they are looking for is spin.

Really? In other words, people are so news hungry, they update themselves throughout the day? To test the theory, I looked at the clock (2:45 p.m.) and said to the class in general: okay, so tell me what's happened so far today. Sheepish looks, total silence. All of which led, in turn, to a serious discussion (okay, a rant) about whether the general (okay, appalling) lack of interest in current events -- even among journalism students, for the love of God -- is partly responsible for the implosion of the news media. We get what we ask for?

So the question became what do we do to support good journalism -- and how do we get people across the board to understand how vital it is to our communities, to our democracy.

Katie Powers, Editor-in-Chief of our campus newspaper, had brought up the original question about Eisenstadt. Her suggestion: maybe journalists across the country should go on strike for 24 hours. No news. Nothing for fatuous blogs to link to. No fodder for cable spin.

Just go dark. Kinda like it. bk

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