Niche media and objectivity

In my discussion the other day of whether newspapers are doomed, I set forth my theory that rather than the internet, it’s the fracturing of America’s once-monolithic set of interests and concerns that’s sinking newspapers that are still trying to be mass media.

Along comes Farhad Manjoo, ex-Cornell-Sun editor, ex-Salon writer and currently Slate technology columnist, with a similar view and a corollary conclusion:

The mainstream is drying up. In some ways, we are returning to the freewheeling days before radio and television launched the very idea of mass media—the era of partisan newspapers and pamphleteers. But our niches, now, are more niche than ever before. We are entering what you might call the trillion-channel universe: over the last two decades, advances in technology—the digital recording and distribution of text, images, and sound over information networks, a.k.a., the modern world—have helped to turn each of us into producers, distributors, and editors of our own media diet. Now we collect the news firsthand through digital cameras, we send our accounts and opinions to the world over blogs, and we use Google, TiVo, the iPod, and a raft of other tools to carefully screen what we consume.

As I said. Manjoo then suggests this is leading also to an increase in bias:

Studies of the media and of human psychology, some conducted recently but many long before the digital revolution, provide compelling insight into the consequences of a fragmented media. Although information now flows more freely than it did in the past—and this is certainly a salutary development—today’s news landscape will also, inevitably, help us to indulge our biases and pre-existing beliefs.

On my list to explore in this blog is one of those many niche media, so-called “citizen journalism” sites, which usually come with an activist-inspired stated mission of serving democracy but which in reality often have more of a slant than the “legacy media” they seek to supplant or augment. More on that soon.

Meanwhile, it seems to me the real opportunity in developing new media outlets is to find ways to be scrupulously objective, whether the reporting is being done by citizen journalists or “real” journalists. More on how that might come about soon, as well.