Old vs. New Media – Another Day, Another Controversy

9 Oct ’06

Perhaps one of the downsides of the meme aggregators, or of the ‘sphere generally, is that they create the impression that every day is awash in controversy. I’m inclined to agree with Paul Kedrosky that much of this is pointless nattering; sometimes it seems that much of what is said is the consequence of lives lived too much online – of too many people believing that too much of what happens to them is worth the world’s attention.

But on the other hand, these flashpoints often strike me as useful metaphors of the dynamics of a transition from an old to a new way of communicating. And this is how I think I’ll remember today’s controversy, Mike Arrington’s appearance on a panel at the Online News Association conference, an appearance at which sparks flew over the old media’s role in a new media world (or vice versa). Arrington blogs it here, and presents a portrait of a decent guy trying to help out who after just speaking out was set upon unfairly by the old guard and its apologists, essentially for simply levelling some controversial comments at The New York Times (and I’m parsing a little here). Others look at it differently, to say the least, including Staci Kramer (“Who’d have thought that Michael Arrington could make Jeff Jarvis and Mark Cuban seem calm”) and Jeff Jarvis (“uncomfortable, even embarrassing”), neither of whom can be fairly called an apologist for anything.

Jarvis notes that this comes after the end of a conference that marks the end of the media wars. He would know better than I, but from my perspective – and perhaps this is the Canadian in me talking – they’re just beginning, and so this is how I frame today’s mini-controversy. The new media is feeling brash, muscular, confident and optimistic – brash enough to mix it up on the old media’s home turf. The ‘tude is evident everywhere – a good example being Thomas Hawk’s trash talk of The New York Times’ irrelevance, though in this case the noise may be little more than covering fire for Arrington’s exit from the battlefield.

(For my part, I don’t really get the NYT trash talk thing – whether it’s from Arrington, Hawk or anyone else. It’s still just about my first choice for credible, balanced news, and there is almost no one in the ‘sphere who can hold my interest with the quality of their writing and the common sense of their perspective the way many of the Times’s writers can. Indeed, we’re coming off of a weekend in which the main buzz has been Google’s interest in YouTube, and most of what I’ve read in the last few days from the ‘sphere on that topic has been meandering, pointless, fanboy rubbish. And a real waste of an opportunity for some of the bright lights inthe ‘sphere on this topic to really dig in and brain dump.)

The industry is changing and remarkable times lie ahead of us. This ONA dust-up strikes me as a sign that we are early days yet in learning how the old and the new are going to fit together.

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