Brian Connolly: Do social media devalue expertise?

Strumpette’s Brian Connolly comments on the value of media expertise to help consumers find value. “We need those independent systems.”

Tuesday – The Cluetrain Wreck


13 Responses to Brian Connolly: Do social media devalue expertise?

  1. Just because the newspaper industry is in a “death spiral” doesn’t necessarily portend a similar end to the concept of authoritative, independent commentary. Adherents of the logic of the marketplace say that it will lead to the most trusted commentary ascending. At the root of that issue is that mainstream media keep proving that they aren’t, in fact, independent. From Fox News to CNN to NPR, and from the NYPOst to the WaPo to the NYT, everyone has an agenda. Connelly’s misgivings are quoted from Andrew Keen’s “Cult of the Amateur,” which Amanda invoked during the halcyon days of Strumpette. Also, the Kami Huyse – Richard Edelman competition on the basis of total traffic presents a fallaceous argument — they’re appealing to different audiences with different objectives, no?

  2. Bill Huey says:

    The reason they were “licking their chops” at Edelman is that without gatekeepers, agencies can get all the “hits” they want, and charge out the wazz for “impressions,” however spurious and however achieved. It will be like the beginning of PR all over again.

  3. I see your point, Bill H., but measurement and evaluation pros are doing their level best to debunk the concept of “impressions” let alone hits. In fact, eyeballs are less and less valued outside of the advertising space, and I have to believe that the agencies know that…

  4. BillH says:

    Sean, you raise an interesting point I’d like to explore: What, besides eyeballs, IS valued, and how are measurement and evaluation pros debunking the concept of impressions, which was a completely bogus metric taken from advertising? Just a few words–I’m not asking for a dissertation unless you want to e-mail me separately.

  5. mediatide says:

    Disclosure: I am “Curran” in the Sledzik-Curran Social Media Project.

    I think everyone who possesses any amount of media literacy understands that mainstream media doesn’t always get it right, and that each outlet has an agenda. There have even been numerous ethical violations, such as story fabrication and plagiarism.

    However, mainstream media employees have the skills and resources (and pulpit) to do things that others cannot. Example: Recently, a Kentucky high school football coach was indicted in the death of a player who suffered heat exhaustion at a summer practice. The school said they did a complete internal investigation. However, a reporter from the Louisville Courier-Journal discovered that the school did not even bother to talk to the coaches! He was able to find that out and report the discrepancy. The reporter was a guest on WLW-Am’s “Sports Talk” this evening.

    In my opinion, it really will be a sad and scary time if the presses and transmitters shut down.

  6. Bill Sledzik says:

    Thanks for chiming in, Andy. I’m with on that point — but also with Sean on his. Sean there’s no doubt, other sources of trusted commentary have already arise from social media — several with authority to rival the MSM. We all welcome those voices.

    But the point I’ve been making isn’t so much about commentary or news analysis but about the actual reporting of events — what we in J-school used to call “history in a hurry.” Andy’s example of the football player in Louisville is apt. It took an MSM reporter to get at the truth. The school system failed, and I assume the health department failed to get it done. And there probably wasn’t a blogger assigned to that beat. (Cue the emoticon!)

    As two “old” media guys, Andy and I have embraced Web 2.0 far more than most of our peers, and we’re excited about its prospects. But I’ve yet to be convinced that bloggers or online pundits can get at the truth as the old guys with the green eye shades used to do.

    At stake, to steal a like from one of my favorite heroes, are no less than truth, justice and the American way.

  7. Mike Keliher says:

    Why is Brian even being interviewed here? Because, among other reasons, Sledzik and Curran found some value in what his character had to say. The dissolution of the huge audiences previously held by a core group of major mainstream media outlets does not at all mean trust and understanding are dissolved as well. It means new entities are stepping up to earn trust and help bring about understanding.

    Some, in both traditional and new media worlds, are hacks, and some are brilliant. People who can’t tell the difference always have and always will have trouble understanding the world around them, and people who can tell the difference will always find ways to connect, to share, to learn, to grow.

    Yes, we do need those independent systems. But to think that “those independent systems” means “traditional media outlets and their mediocre Web sites” just ain’t right.

  8. Bill Sledzik says:

    Agreed, Mike. In my career, I avoided coverage in mainstream media because I simply couldn’t connect with my clients’ key constituents through such an impersonal channel. So we went direct to our publics long before there were digital media to do so. Social media enhance our ability to engage more people and to build understanding — at least to the extent you can scale such things. Traditional media simply hit people with messages that must first pass through the gatekeepers’ filters. Traditional media were and are distinctly one-way communication, but we all depend on them — or at least most of us do.

    It brings me back to my primary concern. Who will report on the events of our time if we lose the mainstream media channels now in place? Blogs are a great place for commentary, but if you look at who bloggers link to most, it’s the “real” reporters. Most of us don’t have the time or the skills to do investigative journalism. And sadly for the MSM, they no longer have the money to employ people who can.

  9. Bill H — would be happy to go further offline, but here are some resources that offer explanation.




    Each of these represents a perspective regarding what can be measured and (to some extent) how.

    KD Paine uses “Share of Discussion” — the portion of the online conversation that talks about you positively. Angie Jeffrey found a correlation between volume of news media coverage and sales results. Jim MacNamara says research can be used for planning and analysis apart from output measurement.

    There are others, but participation seems to be gathering steam as an intermediate measure — outtakes rather than outputs — even as some of the high-forehead types are looking for statistical proof of PR’s effects (to me, that’s not likely; we’d be attempting to adopt the measures of a mechanized system to one that’s got too much free will among its components… if you want to have more dialogue…

  10. mediatide says:

    Disclosure: I am still “Curran” in the Sledzik-Curran Social Media Project.

    I didn’t mean to imply that every social media person is a hack. If I am looking for commentary on the war in Iraq, and I see a blog written by a former general or war correspondent, I would have some degree of trust in those blogs. I would assume that they still followed the scene and had the requisite knowledge of how the military works. I would not afford that trust to a blogger with no such credibility.

    Mainstream media has always used citizens. We call them “eyewitnesses” and “sources.” Reporters, as opposed to commentators, don’t try to make sense out of the news. They find people who can do that and interview them. Some of these citizens have started their own blogs, and I don’t see a problem with that.

    As Mr. Keliher implied, there are some social media people who are just as (or more)trustworty than some of their MSM counterparts. The trick is determining who they are.

  11. Andy – discerning who is authoritative and whom is not was far easier in 1965 than it is now. I would argue that the collapse of journalistic ethics among the mainstream media has contributed the greatest proportion of blame (since we are hard-wired to seek it) in that calculus. Broadcast journalism has become on oxymoron, continually focusing on the irrelevant and sensational, and print is busy shrinking its news hole AND its ad hole. It’s just, well, shrinking. Drudge makes no claim to being a journalist, but breaks news all the time. Bloggers uncover wrongdoing and corruption that the MSM then reports upon. We’re going through a sea change in how authority is assigned — what the meaning of “fact” is — and what constitutes useful information. There are exceptions, of course, and still, most of the blogosphere is … crap. But if you know that most of it IS crap, you can keep digging around until you find a kernal of truth (as opposed to a pony of wisdom.) This participation is the path – not the destination… (wha? I’m feeling philosophical here amid the snow…)

  12. Ike Pigott says:

    Broadcast journalism is dying for a number of reasons.

    The special scarcity they enjoyed had to do with having a license and being able to afford prohibitively expensive equipment. Now the cameras are cheap and passionate individuals can edit on a laptop. Distribution can go viral online. Sadly, the quality is usually crappy, and the ability to consistently turn out quality work on a schedule is rare.

    Also, broadcast news is lost because it ceded the agenda-setting role to the print editors. Consequently, television is always looking for ways to tell stories that are NOT a good fit for the medium, or relying on emotional and fear-based topics that punch ratings but are NOT news.

    Add in the cuts in newspaper staff and the coming decline in enterprise reporting, and what exactly will be left for the television assignment desk?

  13. […] of us to expand our skill sets — to become generalists. But it’s also been said that Web 2.0 devalues expertise. Camp Tweety helped me see both sides of that […]

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