Mike Littwin, the former Rocky Mountain News columnist who’s now at the Denver Post — one of the few lucky transplants — weighs in this morning on Boulder Rep. Jared Polis’ comment about new media’s killing the News and stating that was “mostly a good thing.” Littwin is justifiably offended. His paper died. Many of his hardworking and talented colleagues and friends are out on the streets, and that is a tragedy.
But Littwin is playing at naif — and that won’t work.
The Internet has been powering its way into the middle of our lives for two decades. It has changed how we approach information, how we read and write and watch video and listen to music and generally communicate and think. It has also created whole new categories of people and friends and employment. That’s what the clumsy Democratic congressman Polis was talking about.
It’s clear from context — his full string of sentences and the forum in which he was speaking — that what Polis thought was a good thing was not the death of the News or the rise of bloggers in relation to reporters, but the evolution that is bringing the news business out of the era of mass media into the networked era, the evolution that sees greater inclusion of readers and blogger-analysts and fact checkers and commenters from across the world into news stories and into news story-making processes.
This is what he said to the Netroots blogger crowd in Denver last weekend:
I have to say, that when we say, “Who killed the Rocky Mountain News?” we are all part of that, we truly are. For better or worse, and I argue that it’s mostly for better. … Media is dead, and long live new media.
New media didn’t kill the News. The News, like so many papers, just didn’t adapt. It’s not a contest between bloggers and reporters. That’s a false dichotomy. Great reporting is the thing newspapers still have to sell. It’s their gold. But they haven’t built their businesses around that in ages. It’s the old newspaper business models that have killed the newspaper in the Internet era, and it’s slack editorial norms and practices that have lowered respect for newspaper reporting.