Is the Internet killing opinion journalism? Not at all. It provides a vast forum for lots more of it. But it’s made the search for high-quality opinion writing more difficult. By “high quality” I mean opinion that adheres to what we regard as journalistic standards. They include a certain loyalty to facts and logic – and transparency. Revealing the writer’s real identity helps readers understand where the opinion is coming from.
What the internet has done, IMHO, has produced a cornucopia of high-quality opinion writing that adhere’s to journalistic standards, while many columnists for major dailies, and television presenters cross the line from news into spinning with opinions and sophistry all the time. I am not convinced that all of them are writing and broadcasting under their legal names either. (Nor should they in my opinion.)
What the internet has done is make the readers do more work if they wish to be fully informed, by which I mean knowing what can be known of a subject, such as the NSA story, entailing finding opinions you disagree as well those you ascribe to, while trusting the person expressing those opinions. Opinion writers can hardly be blamed for the fact that most people don’t and won’t do that. They find a groove of reinforcing opinions, and if those opinions are factually in error adopt those falsehoods and opinions as their own, which they then express in online forums and comments as wisdom from on high.
There is a reason we have fact checking sections with their own opinion writers too, given the success of the fact checking function by the blogs. In fact so much of what passes for journalism and opinion writing of the highest-quality is a rip off from the blogs, all without any transparency whatsoever. It’s a race to see whom the biggest filchers are, politicians, or print and broadcast journalists relegated to the cost center, loss leader buckets of infotainment. The last I can understand, the former not so much. Republicans politicians are especially adept at ripping off other people’s’ opinions and ideas, and truth be told, barely rise above much of the internet’s trolls in language, logic and facts, which journalistic standard bearers refuse to report either out of ignorance, or fealty. How many war dead can we bury at the feet of high-quality, journalists with standards, even in this new century?
Let’s talk about high-quality reporting and opinion columns about Iran, Russia or China. That is if we ever see it.