Communication Matters - our blog on trends and events


“Maybe Journalism” versus meticulous reporting. Unhappy ending?

“Maybe Journalism” fought with amazing journalism for front page space in Sunday’s New York Times.

Peter Baker’s meticulously reported reconstruction of President Barack Obama’s intense debate over the conduct of the Afghanistan war is an example of painstaking, high-level reporting. Based on longtime relationships and sources, reporter’s credibility, numerous interviews and an intimate expertise, Baker compiled a report that brings readers into the inner workings of the Obama administration during one its most trying periods.
What is the value of such revealing, time consuming and for the Times, expensive, reporting? As Baker wrote, “The three-month review that led to the (strategy) is a case study in decision making in the Obama White House.”

As most good narrative writers, Baker was transparent in how he reported the article. “’This account of how the president reached his decision is based on dozens of interviews with participants as well as a review of notes some of them took during Mr. Obama’s 10 meetings with his national security team. Most of those interviewed spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss internal deliberations, but their accounts have been matched against those of other participants wherever possible.”

In other words, Baker didn’t just take one person’s word – anonymously reported—for what took place behind the closed White House doors. He pressed for independent corroboration.

In the end, however, Baker wasn’t there, in the Situation Room with the President and his Cabinet. He depended on the best version of the facts and memories and truthfulness of those around him to help record history.

Contrast this approach to the “Maybe Journalism” Noam Cohen describes as “a best guess at the news as it might well have been, rendered as a video game and built on a bed of pure surmise.”

The video, which had 2 million views on YouTube as of Monday, mixes fictional reproductions and best guesses with footage out of a police briefing and file photos and footage of Tiger and his wife and Tiger speaking to an audience.
The animated “news” was created by Next Media, a Hong Kong-based company that also owns gossipy newspapers in Hong Kong and Taiwan, Cohen reported.  The Tiger video is one of 20 the company releases daily.

Think of the fictions that can be churned out, all presented almost like news!

Meticulously reported? No.

Accurate? Doubtful.

Expensive to report? Not really.

So do you think the Bakers of the imploding journalism world can counterbalance the Maybe Journalism that is sure to grow in popularity?

I know. I know. Easy question.

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