Looking for a media beef that distills the journalism industry's rapid decentralization into a convenient and fun dichotomy? Of course you are.
Background: Twin Cites-based citizen journalism site The UpTake had its state Capitol press space reservations canceled after Rochester Post-Bulletin editor Mike Dougherty wrote a letter to the State Department of Administration in March. Dougherty urged officials to banish the from the basement' press area, arguing that The Uptake's progressively partisan presence "compromises the efforts of all the media in that complex that have built their reputations over time."
Dougherty is exactly right. The mainstream print press's built-over-time reputations are wholly unassailable, and any competition that jeopardizes said reputations must be thwarted by the appropriate government bureaucrats. And besides, when has a collection of partisan self-styled muckrakers ever uncovered even a modicum of corruption via video footage? (Oh yeah).
MinnPost's David Brauer today posted a meaty analysis on the ensuing controversy. In it, he raises some questions. For instance, to what degree, if any, does The UpTake's unabashedly progressive agenda play a role in its ousting? Does banning a organization on ideological grounds fly in the face of the constitution? And do any non-journalists out there actually care? (implied)
Which brings us to a periphery media beef. Hours after Brauer's article appeared online Post-Bulletin managing editor Jay Furst took issue with the piece, and fired back on his paper's website. He accused the media critic of mischaracterizing his position, and maintained the PB's concern pertained to available space-- if they want to take their gadgets to a separate office or whatever, by all means, have had it.
"I also told him that I think the Uptake has a fantastic Web site, I'm all for citizen journalist groups, etc. -- have no problem with that. Instead, your column leaves the strong impression and straw-man argument that this is a MSM vs. New Media argument."
Brauer subsequently scored a few points in the comments section, among them:
"As I noted in the MinnPost comments, the story explicitly states that this is not a new-versus-old media issue. (There's even criticism of the Uptake from a fellow new-median.) So that's a straw man. This is strictly about a media organization's actions; I'm platform-neutral on that."
Straw-man argument or not, the MSM/New Media divide is the underlying issue here. The argument, while ideological in its implications, is fundamentally technological. The exponential refinement of communication gadgetry has swept away the hurdles that previously barred non-journalists from collecting information and disseminating it to their fellow citizens. Whether you think this paradigm shift is a good or bad thing depends on who signs your paycheck, a fact very few working reporters will admit while sober.
As organizations (partisan or otherwise) improve their ability to stream, in real time, press conferences, city council meetings, etc. on the cheap, the idea of paying a typing monkey
$70,000 $30,000 a year to attend, summarize, and publish resulting findings on dead trees 24 hours after the fact will seem increasingly preposterous and cost-prohibitive across the board.
But that's a separate debate. Back to the issue at hand: Should The Uptake's access in the State Capitol be restricted? Throw your two cents in the comments section below. Better yet, vlog about it somewhere.
Media purists can go ahead and write a handwritten letter-to-the-editor that may or may not appear in print six days down the road.
UPDATE: Read the UpTake's written statement here.
UPDATE II: Conservative blog Minnesota Democrats Exposed has announced its plans to apply for Capitol press access and credentials.