Wednesday, August 30, 2006

Oh, great! Now everybody's a freakin' media critic!

National Journal media critic Bill Powers is interviewed in PRWeek on the state of media criticism and what PRWeek sees as the burgeoning number of media critics:

PRWeek: With the Web, now almost anybody can be a media critic. Do you think the quality of media criticism is still there?

Bill Powers: Suddenly, there are about 10 million more media critics than there were 10 years ago. I find that exciting. It's funny, there are all these bloggers and all these people who are instant media critics, and yet there are a lot of traditional news outlets that still don't have anyone doing media criticism... My philosophy is, the more, the merrier.

And I actually think there are a lot of bloggers who are so good at it that I sort of wish they would be picked up by mainstream outlets and do both. Because I just think it's a topic that's really inexhaustible. I do this weekly column and I never have a shortage of ideas. There is always so much happening. And I do find that people really are engaged by this subject and talk about it. I think the conventional wisdom in journalism is that media criticism is an inside-the-business topic and it's really just going to be read by other journalists. And I don't think that's true anymore. I think there is a broader interest. Everybody sort of becomes a media critic, and people follow the stuff. I just did a public appearance last night jointly with Dan Okrent, the former New York Times ombudsman. It was a charity thing for a public library, and they had us in a congregational church in a town up where I live. All these hundreds of people showed up! It was great. They were all interested, and they asked incredibly intelligent questions, it was just fascinating. It wasn't journalists, it was people from the public who really follow this stuff and care about journalism.

I've emailed Bill a couple of times on his column, and he's always responded. great guy who actually knows something about the blogosphere. But one thing Bill is missing is an understanding of why people do media criticism. Think of it this way, Bill: when folks grow up with tv, radio, movies, and all sorts of media, and they're not lulled into brain-deadness from the unbiquity of celebrity worship, they're going to form opinions about media. And, unlike their fathers, who spent countless hours yelling at Walter Cronkite, most folks nowadays are going to channel all that pent up frustration into some darned astute writing and are going to use that writing to talk back to the Powers that Be in media. Most of us who are doing it are smart, perceptive and even might have written on media in the past or created it at some time in our lives (yes, to blow my own horn again: I did an honors thesis that combined media and religion.)

We're a whole new level of media critic and darned proud of it.

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