Home > Uncategorized > Is Opinion Becoming the New State Religion?

Is Opinion Becoming the New State Religion?

A recently leaked memo from The New York Times suggests that changes to the Sunday “Week in Review” section and an expansion of online opinion are bringing the news room and the editorial room closer than in the past.

http://news.yahoo.com/s/yblog_thecutline/20110218/bs_yblog_thecutline/ny-times-reinventing-week-in-review-section

Bill Keller is not just issuing a memo, he is reacting to the Huff Post / AOL merger. And it’s moves like this that have toppled empires. Keller is extending The Times into territory it does not belong in.

Traditionally, the seperation of news and opinion at a newspaper has been likened to the seperation of “church and state” that we have in our society. It was traditionally considered important to keep the news staff and the editorial staff seperate, so that the news staff would not be seen as biased by their own opinions.  With the “news analysis” that Keller is expanding into the “Week in Review” section, this distinction becomes less clear.

Personally, I don’t believe in “News Analysis.” I believe reporting should speak for itself. The analysis of a story should be provided through the use of colorful quotes from experts in the field. The world is cluttered with enough opinion and analysis from other outlets, do we really need Times reporters adding to it?

Bill Keller thinks so. The move comes on the heels of AOL purchasing the Huffington Post, creating a media giant that is centered around creative opinion pieces. I enjoy the Huffington Post, I admire its business model and I believe it has a bright future ahead. However, I do not believe it is in the same business as The New York Times. And the problem for The Times, as well as many other newspapers, is they still don’t understand what business they are in.

When newspaper publishers were the only ones with printing presses, they essentially controlled what information got out to the public. With the advent of the internet, this all changed. Now that anyone can write a story or an opinion piece and release it to the whole world in seconds, everything has changed.

What that leaves The New York Times and other newspapers with is a different function. They are no longer the ones disseminating the information. They would be wise to leave the dissemination to companies that do these things well, such as Facebook and Apple. What The Times does well is gathering and reporting news. But instead of focusing on providing quality journalism and trading on a long-standing reputation of integrity, they’re betting the farm on opinion.

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Categories: Uncategorized
  1. Lew
    February 27, 2011 at 12:45 am

    Excellent and well-written post. I think it’s important to maintain the “separation of church and state,” but it seems like sometimes the two become entwined.

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