has published an interesting DaveNet today, “Is it marketing or journalism?” Of course this question has been central to journalism for years, going back at least to the days of Hearst and Pulitzer’s yellow journalism. But though the question seems to have been sleeping for a while, it has definitely revived in the past couple of years.
As far as I’m concerned, Winer is pretty directly taking on the Telecom Reform Act in a piece like that. At least that’s my interpretation. By concentrating ownership of the media, the Act led directly (though it wasn’t the only thing that led us here) to the point where there is a lack of competition in the marketplace: competition that would (and traditionally did) keep journalists honest. Think of baseball. The owners always scream about keeping free agent salaries down, about controlling their environment. But with 30 teams, someone (usually Steinbrenner, it seems) always defects and refuses to toe the line and signs the big contract. That competition no longer exists in journalism. There aren’t very many players left (at the money end of things), so it’s less likely that someone will defect from current practice (i.e., not questioning the boss or money) and thus in effect keep them all honest.
Again, with feeling: the CDA was a smokescreen! It was the rest of the 1996 Telecom Reform Act that was really offensive. It vacated accountability in the media through the removal of competition. The effect this has had (with other influences) is undeniable.