We are witnessing a tipping point in American journalism in which the balance of power is tilting decisively towards new media, Financial Times editor Lionel Barber writes today. In particular the 2008 presidential debate - already dubbed the YouTube election - has "revolutionised the terms of political engagement", he says, as the mainstream media's imperial status has been shaken.

At the Democrat convention, hundreds of bloggers thronged a purpose-built new media center called The Big Tent - and mainstream journalists could only go in if they registered as visitors. Meanwhile, two of the race's big stories have been broken by a 61-year-old blogger for the Huffington Post, Mayhill Flower. Both of her stories exemplify the extent to which traditional journalism is being turned on its head, Barber says. For the first story, she was only present at an Obama speech because she's a Democrat donor.  For the second, she didn't identify herself as a reporter, or blogger, when putting a question to Bill Clinton.

Barber quoes Eric Alterman's excellent New Yorker essay: "Whereas a newspaper tends to stand by its story on the basis of an editorial process in which professional reporters and editors attempt to vet their sources and check their accuracy before publishing, the blogosphere relies on its readership - its community - for its quality control . . . Only if a post is deemed by a reader to be false, defamatory or offensive does an editor get involved."

Barber admits he finds this "alarming - not so much because it threatens to put me (and many colleagues) out of a job but because it signals a departure from an honourable tradition in which professional journalists do their best - through a process of discovery relying on multiple sources - to establish something approaching a rough historical record.

The question is whether this same journalistic rigour can survive the current maelstrom."


I really do not like the sound of having to register in order to attend at a media center, simply because it causes administrative fuss/attendant bureaucracy and generally is a pain in the backside. I mean, considering that is meant to be part of a democratic convention, where is the democracy in being asked to pose as visitors if you're a journalist? Surely it is your right to be free and march in there to cover it, not having to register? Although do Democrats think either blogging is not acceptable enough to just allow journalists in freely, because a lot of people can do it and it de-values it? Or are they punishing journalists for invading privacy? But then again it's an open democratic convention? Shouldn't we be allowed...freedom, democracy, free press?

Or am I just ranting? Yes.

...Although it is more worrying that Mayhill Flower was only at one speech to recount events. Questionably, is there much credibility in terms of what I write as a blogger? This doesn't go for everyone who is a journalist or those of you on here. I just mean generally, do we as reporters need to see the events for themselves in real-life to make an accurate judgement of events, rather than relying on sources of information which could be otherwise biased or lacking in clarity, i.e. ranging from a person, to notes on wikipedia? Or are we as journalists good enough to write a clear piece based on what we either know personally, have studied, or have gathered from supposedly reliable sources?

Interesting article.


American journalism has seen rather a lot of tipping points, but I suspect the networks retain influence to an extent that Barber is wrong to understate..and the quality newspapers inform the networks. I'd like to see a serious attempt to assess the percentage of registered voters who perceive citizen journalism as their primary source of dependable political news. I'll be surprised if the segment of the American electorate that actually votes is not more traditional than dear Lionel fondly imagines. It is easy to confuse passionate twitter-users with opinion formers. Are they the same people?         

The 'tipping point' for American journalism