Thursday, October 16, 2008
News media: 'Any dope with a modem'?
Nashville was graced this week with separate visits by New York Times Reporter and author Peter Applebome (at left) and PRNewswire Director of Emerging Technologies Michael Pranikoff. Applebome appeared Monday before Vanderbilt students, faculty and staff. Pranikoff spoke Tuesday, describing the online landscape for PR folks gathered at the Sheraton by PRNewswire. Both presentations were excellent and anything but cynical. Still, their respective roles inevitably produced different emphases: Applebome, among numerous weighty points, noted that consumers who want news are "overwhelmed," partly because the proliferation of online media means "we've gone from ten famous pundits, to any dope with a modem." In a way, he said, all this news and commentary has produced a Golden Age of journalism, despite the fact that media emphasis on sensation and action over deep treatment of issues makes most news coverage seem like a session of the videogame "Grand Theft Auto." He said he is concerned mainstream media are weakening, leaving in doubt who will produce the in-depth reporting done today by national newspapers. A day after Applebome, Pranikoff -- who was conducting a workshop for online tool users, not a philosophical discourse -- noted that based on Technorati data there are 4.5 million regular bloggers who consider themselves "journalists." Those bloggers -- and PR departments -- are to some extent replacing the content lost by the continuing shrinkage of formal newsrooms. Pranikoff stressed this means big opportunities for PR people to get their releases published, often 'word for word'. Stressing "transparency" as to both source and content, Pranikoff -- PRNewswire makes money when people send out more releases -- noted, "The only way to control the conversation is to keep talking" via frequent news releases, continually engaging bloggers, et cetera. While that makes sense from the standpoint of protecting one's reputation and promoting one's interests, it's also a clear signal that consumers who decide to fight their way through the blizzard of news and faux news, will have to search continually for sources they trust.