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Why so much modern reporting bothers us
It's not that media is too "woke" or institutionally captured, it's frequently something else...
Scott Rosenberg wrote a piece years ago I still think about titled: no more bouncers at the journalism club door. In it, Scott makes quite a logical case that anyone can now do journalism, at least meeting the technical definition even if they are not a full time 'journalist’ working for a large media brand. I agree, because of the internet it’s no longer an area a select few control the channels of distribution of or there exists a moat to develop that skillset. When every company is a media company and anyone can do journalism, the strategies of pure media companies and pure content creators needs to change. Ultimately ‘brand’ will be what sorts the wheat from the chaff (which leaves me scratching my head so many are willing to torch this for short term clicks).
Anyway, Scott’s piece linked above is prescient as it’s from awhile ago but has held up incredibly well and is worth reading if you haven’t. One bit from it stood out as worth reiterating, which highlights why much modern reporting tends to bother us:
The phenomenon is this: There’s an inverse relationship between the amount of knowledge you have on a given topic and your level of satisfaction with the media coverage of that topic.
More simply: the better you know a subject the more you think its coverage stinks.
And that’s one of the (many) reasons traditional media outlets continue to face disruption. It’s beyond just the clickbait or political nonsense, (although that certainly isn’t helpful) it’s the fact that the internet has given birth to a class of metacognitive, media literate individuals across industries and company types. In essence, those with the most experience, passion and interest in a subject can cover it in a way that is more meaningful to industry insiders than any outsider can.
If you’re versed in a subject, immersed in niche digital channels and actual hands-on internal work where deep discussions happen surrounding it and see mainstream media coverage at a shallow level, it tends to bother you.
Has this ever happened to you? Have you read an story on a subject you have knowledge in and thought the reporting was lacking? If so, why haven’t you decided to do something about this and engage in industry discussions yourself? Many others already have. And you’re still early. I think it’s important to get right in cases a picture is being painted that just isn’t an accurate reflection of an industry.
This applies to companies as much as individuals, and this frustration marks an opportunity for the intrepid few willing to go deeper into subjects than most who merely flirt with the surface. They simply aren’t allocated the same amount of time, and it’s not really how trade media are structured.
That’s the strategy: go deeper, cover in more depth and provide sharper analysis than anyone else can. Sustain this over long periods of time and become the go-to source within the industry. Both pure media companies and companies with something to sell (whether services or products) can do this and decide to rethink how they source talent to be able to go as deep as insiders.
If your media is the variety that scratches an itch no one else can find, you’ll influence a niche more than the shallow reporting that now all too frequently tends to bother us. It’s also why great reporters who really get the subject matter they’re covering (think Matt Levine at Bloomberg) are so memorable, even if they work for a big media brand. Finance which is what Matt covers is of course a different area than my sector (ad/tech) where I am frequently left unfulfilled. Anyway, my hope is individuals like this force more trades and mainstream publications to do better work, or take advantage of ability to go direct to communities. This is an inevitable forcing function of the internet and individual publishing, something that is persistent through all phases and trends of new media and is not going away.