Journalistic blame games

Jeff Jarvis introduced me to all the blaming going on among incumbent journalists in his post: When innovation yields efficiency. At one level, it appears that those in power cannot take responsibility for their loss of marketplace power. They can only give that responsibility to those who appear to be taking away their power.

This is a very familiar pattern to me in the mentoring I've done over the years. When someone is feeling helpless, persecuted and anxiety ridden, it's inconceivable for them to take responsibility for their condition. They use their circumstances to tell victim stories, seek sympathy and vilify those who are better off. "Taking responsibility" falls on their ears as "taking the blame". In their experience, this is adding insult to injury - taking the heat after taking the loss. It's too much to take according to them.

Of course I reflected more deeply on this in the month since Jeff wrote that illuminating post. I have made more connections to other facets of Journalism 1.0 and the doors they are leaving wide open for upstart replacements:
  • What if blaming craigslist and Google for declining revenues in the newspaper industry is symptomatic of how they report on the news. It's in keeping with framing politicians with blame for legislative policy changes, business leaders for changes in industries and school systems for the substandard learning outcomes of students.
  • What if the way news reports on "who made the news" is implicitly blaming the newsmaker for the incident. Journalists that report on the context that led up to it, allowed it, fed it, or failed to change it would at least be "spreading the blame", if not doing the responsible thing.
  • What if responsible journalism takes responsibility for the effects of news gathering and reporting. Journalists that merely publish reports would then blame anyone who accused them of being irresponsible.
  • What if professionalism is a shield to hide behind, to indemnify the journalists from accusations of making situations worse by their news coverage. As journalism evolves to be "less professional", perhaps reporters will report on their concerns about changing the story by telling it, biasing the story by their outlook and lengthening the story by making it newsworthy.
In my mind, this creates a picture of how Journalism 1.0 leaves the door wide open for a replacement. To close that door, the incumbents would have to stop blaming others and take responsibility for changes that would rather not face.

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