The Cyberbrains

Research and contemplation in new media

Newspapers don’t need Mariotti

Jay Mariotti is a genius! I don’t know how he did it, but he realized something no one else has figured out yet. News, and especially sports news, he said is moving to the INTERNET! Wow, why didn’t I realize that?

Oh wait, I did, along with hundreds of other people. But that’s not my big beef with Mariotti’s sudden departure from the Chicago Sun-Times. I hadn’t even heard about it until today when a good friend told me about it. (Thanks David!) What really gets me is Mariotti’s audacity in how he announced his resignation. Newspapers may not be the medium of the future, but if Mariotti really cared about sports journalism, I don’t think he’d be so eager to jump from a sinking ship.

I mean, take a look at what this guy told the Chicago Tribune.

“I’m a competitor and I get the sense this marketplace doesn’t compete,” he said. “Everyone is hanging on for dear life at both papers. I think probably the days of high-stakes competition in Chicago are over.

“To see what has happened in this business. … I don’t want to go down with it.”

Gee, that’s great Jay, so when the going gets tough, you get going, I guess. In the same article he talked about how he’s fielding several offers from web sites. So I guess he’s jumping to where the action is.

Give the originators of the Jay the Joke Web site all the credit in the world for calling Jay on his bluff.

I am sure that his family is thrilled to see Jay walk away from millions of guaranteed dollars in a tough economy so that he can seek his* fame and fortune alongside porn sites, gambling sites and us. By “thrilled” I mean it in much the same way as any sane person would cheer an outbreak of Ebola in their neighborhood.

His decision isn’t just about money, however. In a later post Jay is a Joke hits the nail on the head again. Jay’s doing what’s good for Jay, not what’s good for the business.

The citation of Jay’s resignation due to “newspapers are dying” is bogus. Not that long ago, the pundit bemoaned over the supposed illegitimate blogging ways of those dreaded Internet creatures. And rather than stay on board and fight the good battle alongside Rick Telander to preserve the newspaper business, Mariotti fled. “Courage of conviction”? I think not. His former colleagues were not fooled and neither is the reading public of this city.

As a media researcher and journalist, I just want to echo Mariotti’s critics. Newspapers are facing a change – that is certain. But to say they are dead and everything’s gonna be web sites is shortsighted and premature. Newspapers need the best people in line to help them through the transition. They need to maintain to help the credibility they have left and give audiences someone to trust to give them the straight scoop.

Obviously, Mariotti not going to do that. But he does teach those of us who still care about the business a valuable lesson. Now is not the time to give up! Now is the time to look at what we do best, what we are trained as journalists to do, and find a way that we can keep doing it online. Maybe this doesn’t mean we are the only sources for news now. Maybe it even means we read and (gasp!) quote from a blog here and there. Maybe we even open our news pages up to (gasp, gasp!) citizen stories and comments. But there’s no reason to trade away your credibility (enough at one time to get you a $6 million over three year contract) just because no one is playing by your rules anymore.

CROSS POSTED at Giving the Internet Too Much Credit

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August 28, 2008 - Posted by | Hans Meyer | , , ,

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