Vanity Fair has a print circulation of around 1 million copies; the current issue has a fresh photo of Angelina Jolie on its cover; and Hitch is one of the best writers to ever draw breath. However, I’m reasonably sure that this blog post, or the next one, will reach more readers than his latest gem. For bloggers like Ferriss and Godin, the future arrived long ago: Publishing in Vanity Fair would be tantamount to burying their work. This is astounding. Given its range of content, and the costs of acquiring this content, a magazine like Vanity Fair should get much more traffic than any one person’s blog. And this brings us back to the problem of money: Apart from my occasional use of a webmaster and a graphic designer, my blog employs no one—not even me. Where is all this heading? I can count on one finger the number of places where it is still obviously better for me to publish than on my own blog—the opinion page of The New York Times. But it’s not so much better that I’ve been tempted to send them an article in the last few months. Is this just the hubris of the blogosphere? Maybe—but not for everyone and not for long.
The set of solutions to common information problems that we call journalism is coming unglued as different types of publications become possible on the Internet.
Soup, in his response to whatever this article is about, goes on to say that it is the reader’s due diligence to investigate journalists and their conflicts, so as to have a better idea of who to trust. It seems to me that this idea is a bit like blaming the victim. I am to blame for trusting something I read from a major news outlet because I did not take time out of my day to research every last thing that reporter/organization is/has been involved with? No. They do not sell me the news. They are selling trust. If they are not selling trustworthy material they are not doing their job and should be taken to task by organizations who are selling trust. Therein lies the competition effect of the free market on journalism. This idea that it is up to the end-consumer of news to be responsible for policing trust is infuriating because the burden is unreasonable. Having to cruise public documents and dredge the internet to find out if someone is being truthful is not the public’s job, it is a reporter’s. Any insinuation otherwise is absurd.
Aside from a few tweets, I’ve mainly stayed out of the latest TechCrunch brouhaha. These things tend to flare up every few months, and they ultimately end up meaning nothing. But I would like to address one thing in particular, because The New York Times’ David Carr names me specifically in his article on the matter today.
More generally, it occurs to me that a lot of these posts are based around a fundamental misunderstanding of how TechCrunch actually works. Journalists seem to think they can write about TechCrunch as if they’re looking in a mirror. That is to say, they think our operation runs in a similar manner to theirs and they use that as a jumping off point for misguided (but predictable) outrage. In reality, what they’re looking at when they look at TechCrunch is a crystal ball.
So gather ‘round everyone, to learn how TechCrunch actually works.
Both David Carr and MG Sigler’s take are worth reading.
The New York Times has the same disclosure issues TechCrunch has, NYT invests in startups, Daylife being one of them. How much has ever been made of that conflict in their tech reporting?
All publications have conflicts, as I’ve written before, investments are one of many conflicts that publications and writers have, and often we don’t even bother to acknowledge them. Disclosure seems like the best way to deal with this, but that might even make things worse.
Ultimately it is up to the reader to do their due diligence, inform themselves, and decide for themselves how ethical the journalist is. Drive-by readers, which are really the majority of the audience, will never bother to do this and will often be duped. I’m not certain what the solution is here, but trying to avoid having conflicts to begin with is a good start.
Page 1 of 4