Hirschorn vs Den Beste re: the NYT’s imminent demise

Mr. Den Beste, sadly, has disabled the comments to this very good post.  To wit:

Michael Hirschorn writes (regarding the impending demise of the NYT):


If you’re hearing few howls and seeing little rending of garments over the impending death of institutional, high-quality journalism, it’s because the public at large has been trained to undervalue journalists and journalism.


Ah, several things spring to mind in response to this. “Undervalue”? A thing is worth what someone is willing to pay for it, and if “the public at large” considers journalism to be worth very little, then pretty much by definition they’re right, because they’re the ones doing the paying. The problem here is not that the public is undervaluing journalism, but that journalists have gotten into the habit of thinking that their work is worth more than it really is.


I think that Mr. Den Beste is actually missing something, and that Hirschorn has a point: journalism IS under-valued.  For instance, Michael Yon and Michael Totten  don’t get anywhere NEAR what they deserve in their tip jars.  Unfortunately, Hirschorn’s point is also a bit of a red herring based on collectivist thinking.  

You see this sort of collective category error all the time. I’m a teacher. The work that teachers do is VERY important — as a group. That has no bearing on whether or not MY lectures are a complete and total waste of time, however.

Similarly, journal*ISM* is very important, and Michael Hirschorn is correct to say it’s undervalued. However, that does not mean that the work of any particular journalistic organization, or the journalists who work for them, have been incorrectly valued. Or, in the case of the NYT, valued with pitiless accuracy.

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1 Comment

  1. convivialdingo

     /  January 7, 2009

    My own perception:

    The problem I see with Journalism is the rapid growth of editorialism. “Fair and balanced” begins to cloud over when the papers’ employees engage in so much opinion and gossip. To be fair enough – the skew towards opinion journalism was a gambit to save papers and give journalist a second income.

    Perhaps it worked for a time – but it was also affecting the publications as individual opinions were associated with papers themselves.

    The other failure is the inability of papers to cash in on the internet, and the inability to retain subscribers as paying customers.


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