Wednesday, August 01, 2007

Journalism in transition and not-so-irrational voters: Rosenberg

Scott Ronsenberg, who's just left Salon, wrote two posts that merit a broader attention. The first is simply a response to Kristoff's recent "irrational voter" essay. Rosenberg expresses exactly what I thought as I read Kristoff's article. I think the American voter is future shocked, comatose, AWOL and derelict, but I thought Kristoff's examples of irrationality were .. umm ... irrational. Rosenberg captured my thoughts perfectly:

Those darn irrational voters.

... What are the ways in which voters are “worse than ignorant”? Kristof summarizes Caplan’s complaints of “systematic error” in voter rationality: Voters share “a suspicion of market outcomes and a desire to control markets.” They have “an anti-foreign bias,” evidenced by an unwillingness to embrace free trade wholeheartedly. They share “a neo-Luddite bias against productivity gains that come from downsizing or “creative destruction.’” And they have a “pessimistic bias, a tendency to exaggerate economic problems.”

Gee, it sounds like the real problem Caplan has with the voting public is that they don’t agree with the program of conservative economists!...

...Personally, I’m reasonably comfortable with the pro-free-trade argument. But you won’t find me sneering at those who sense that the dynamic of the global economy is not doing them or their families any good.

More significant in the longer run is Rosenberg's summary of the state of the journalist in the Murdoch-WSJ era:

Scott Rosenberg’s Wordyard » Blog Archive » Murdoch, the Journal, and the newsroom diaspora

It is no surprise that Rupert Murdoch will be the new owner of Dow Jones and the Wall Street Journal...

...The truth is that most professional journalists in the U.S. have lived in a cocoon for decades...

... I don’t trust Rupert Murdoch. He has a long and well-documented record of using his properties to further his own agenda. But I trust that there are a lot of smart writers and editors at the Journal. Either they’ll get an opportunity to reshape their paper in a way that suits the times and their own consciences — or they’ll find themselves in the great newsroom diaspora with the rest of us, helping us figure out new models for the future.

WSJ journalists have no excuse for complaining about the cold winds of capitalism, I'm sure they're too smart to expect much sympathy. I do hope that the best of them take Rosenberg's challenge and join a new world, but I also remember that when BYTE died, nothing replaced its value. (The sum of the entire tech blogsphere is probably the closest thing we have now, and that took about ten years post-BYTE to emerge.)

PS. As to the fate of the WSJ, as I've written before, I'm an optimist. At worst it will stay about the same. At best Murdoch will eliminate the editorial staff and keep the news people. Next best is to keep the editorial staff but so weaken the news function that it dies a slow death. All improvements.

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