The good old days of pre-Internet journalism weren’t as rosy as some veterans of the fourth estate would have you believe, panelists at a pow-wow on the state of the news media agreed Tuesday.
Tuesday’s debut of IFC channel’s docu series “The Media Project” served as the peg for a session on the future direction of journalism, held at Michael’s Restaurant in midtown.
Huffington Post chief Arianna Huffington moderated a lively panel that featuring veteran Gotham journo Pete Hamill, Weekly Standard editor William Kristol, writer-commentator Christopher Buckley and “Media Project” host Gideon Yago.
Hamill took issue with Huffington’s criticism of present-day fourth estaters and admiration for a “truth telling” ethic of days gone by. “There are some really hard-working, tough-minded reporters still doing the fundamental work,” he said.
Conversely, he added, “when I was young, there were some terrible ones where you wouldn’t believe anything they said about their mother, never mind about anything important locally.”
Kristol agreed, saying “People should not be too nostalgic about the past. The good old days weren’t that good. There were demagogues and bad reporting.”
Citing a pre-Internet America with fewer options, he opined: “Kids today just take for granted that they can go online and read five different news reports about the financial crisis, five different arguments about whether there should be an auto bailout or not.”
Yago and Huffington were the most disparaging of the current state of affairs. Huffington diagnosed mainstream newsers as “suffering from attention-deficit disorder, moving from one story to another, (with) the online media suffering from obsessive-compulsive disorder” in its tendency to harp on certain stories.
Buckley, who said he is “waiting for my ambassadorial appointment” as thanks for his unexpected endorsement of Barack Obama, mostly stayed above the fray during the discussion.
He did, however, take one pointed shot at a convention of current TV news reporting.
“The term ‘Breaking News’ used to mean a president had been assassinated or that Fidel Castro had missiles pointed at the U.S. Today, when you see the ‘Breaking News’ headline, it might mean a truck has overturned on the freeway,” he said.