Serving readers and serving journalism

It’s nice to have a big media blog like CBS PublicEye link to my puny little site, but I just wish they had gotten the context right.

Howard Owens looks at the dustup and wonders: “Are we in danger of letting reader stats dictate coverage?”

But I didn’t wonder that. I just said that has been a question.

I actually don’t wonder about that at all, because I believe that smart journalists can figure out how to understand readership and produce ethically sound, socially redeeming content. I think there is room in journalism for both the news of Tom Brady’s baby and the next Watergate. There is nothing wrong with giving people the candy they want so you can serve the Castor Oil they need.

That isn’t to say that Will Sullivan doesn’t have a valid point about the slippery slope, but I tend to think smart journalists will do well at striking a balance between what we learn from stats and what TradJ news hounds want to make sure we keep covering.

There’s also an element of this that strikes me as arguing from the extremes. Any newspaper webmaster who has spent a good deal of time with story stats knows that measuring reader interest is really more complex than just a straight recitation of what’s popular at any given moment in time.

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