All Media Are Parasitic

The dust up between the AP and the entire blogosphere has been well-discussed over the last few days. But one aspect of this issue that I haven’t seen is the question of appropriation in terms of the larger media landscape. In short, the AP is worried about protecting its IP, but in its heavy-handed approach, ignores the fact that the entire news media business is built on…ahem…”borrowing” stories and ideas from other media sources.

The tactics the AP is taking here is a well-worn path. Back in 2002, the Online Journalism Review wrote on this very issue — whether or not blogs are a “parasitic” medium:

I hear the frustration behind the comment. You bust your rear to get stories in the paper, then watch bloggers grab traffic talking about your work. All the while your bosses are laying off other reporters, citing circulation declines, as analysts talk about newspapers losing audience to the Web. It’s not hard to understand why many newspaper journalists would come to view blogs as parasites, sucking the life from their newsrooms.

Still, the charge riles me every time I hear it. To me, it’s a poorly informed insult of many hard-working Web publishers who are doing fresh, informative and original work. And by dismissing blogs as “parasitic,” newspaper journalists make themselves blind to the opportunities that blogging, as well as independent Web publishing in general, offer to both the newspaper industry and newspaper journalists.

And on the larger issue of the media in general:

Gordon reminded that bloggers are not alone in referencing reporter’s work.

“There is a long tradition *within journalism* of publishing and broadcasting the work of people whose primary contribution to discourse is opinion and analysis. Bloggers fall squarely within this tradition. They are parasitic only if your definition of journalism consists only of original reporting.”

If bloggers are parasitic, then so are the opinion pundits, talk radio hosts, and television broadcasters. The latter, in fact, is quite common, or at least seems so. For example, recently The New York Times front-paged an article that took on Obama’s charge that McCain would be a Bush third term. Later that day, on CNN, here’s Wolf Blitzer:

Democrats say, if you vote for John McCain, you will really be voting for a third Bush term. So, how true is that? Mary Snow is looking at the similarities between the candidate and the president.


Any attribution to the NYT?

Bloggers are the new kid, the easy mark. And something of a threat to the institution of journalism. But to ignore the parasitic nature of journalism in general, and go after bloggers for copy and pasting articles — something that is actually rarely done in the blogosphere — is just plain silly.


One response

  1. […] completely ignores the extent to which all media are parasitic. This is a point I’ve made before: If bloggers are parasitic, then so are the opinion pundits, talk radio hosts, and television […]

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