Arrington is actually helping mainstream media by sucking away their readers

The best thing to happen to mainstream journalism is happening -- the profits are imploding on an Arrington- and Gillmor-greased gesture away from old ad vehicles.
Written by Dana Gardner, Contributor

Mike Arrington wanted to create a dialogue with mainstream media at ONA. Steve Gillmor says he shouldn't have wasted his time. Steve's right.

You want to get the attention of mainstream media? Kick 'em in the revenue stream. The real competition therefore is Craigslist. You match up six Arringtons with six Craigslists and the mainstream print and online media is toast. Then the journalists will become bloggers, which was part of Mike's thinking, I believe.

The more successful independent bloggers there are like Arrington, then the more the mainstream publishers get real competition ... instead of just jockeying among themselves for better circulation numbers. Indeed, Sumner Redstone said it all last week on Charlie Rose: He's in the business to win. Just to win, for it's own sake. An old man and his winnings. He didn't say to make good journalism, or to spread a good public service word. Just to win. He learned that at Boston Latin, he said. Was it in civics?
The so-called wall between church and state in media -- between the editors and the publishers -- has been crumbling nearly as long as it's been building. Ask Willie Hearst. Does TV compete with newspapers that compete with radio? Naw, they are usually owned by the same companies, often in the same markets, thanks to a flaccid FCC. They count up the consolidated spoils, while cutting the newsroom staffs. (Maybe the summer interns can write it?)

The last 20 years of media consolidation by public corporate behemoths have turned the alleged objectivity wall into merely a placard for posting ratings and ad price cards. Ask Dan Rather. Journalists may think they are objective, but they are beholden to the almighty advertisement, which means their ability to remain objective is always under assault. They remain objective, they think, but they also dance with negligence as their resources are whittled away. They might be without obvious conflicts, but their ability to get the job done well is conflicted by their need for ever-growing ad rates to feed the mother corporation profit margins of 20% or more. Ask the LA TImes.

Arrington now has the resources to do better journalism. His trajectory is toward a better product. The mainstream media's trajectory is toward worse products and more gimmicks to retain audience. Ratings, ratings, ratings. They think social networking sites will fill the gap. You think Rupurt Murdoch will siphon profits from MySpace to keep his newspapers at break-even? Or will he close the papers? What would his shareholders have him do? Ask Knight-Ridder.

The best thing to happen to mainstream journalism is happening -- the profits are imploding on an Arrington- and Gillmor-greased gesture away from old ad vehicles. The silver lining (not gold) is that forcing the media companies into single-digit profits will mean the big companies will dump their mainstream properties. That happens at just the time that anybody with a PC and good journalism skills can create the next generation of media brands.

Then the journalists will call the shots -- not the publishers, not the corporations, not the shareholders. Tiny state, big church. Journalists will be better paid and less conflicted under the Arrington model. Their professionalism will make them objective, and they won't have to worry that the threat of looming layoffs will jaundice the way they cover the news. Editors can edit, instead of doing the bidding of the corporation while screaming about how objective they are.

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