We just got around to listening to the tape of Ira Glass speaking to Columbia students last week after his This American Life radio program won a duPont/Columbia University Award. (We spotted part of the convo through our friends over at Philebrity and got curious.) Glass spoke at length about the ills of traditional media, and why his type of conversational, explanatory reporting stands out. “I think where opinion still kicks journalism’s ass on a daily basis is that it talks to us in a normal tone of voice,” he said. “It’s somebody saying, like, ‘I’m going to talk to you the way that we talk to each other.’” Then he went into attack mode:
“Newspapers are mostly really terrible and they deserve to die. And network news is mostly really terrible and it deserves to go down. The amount of network news I’ve watched in my entire life — like the actual six o’clock or ten o’clock, I don’t even know what time they’re on — is perhaps less than ten or fifteen hours. I’ve just never watched it. It seems completely irrelevant, the tone seems horrible. They’re like news robots talking to other news robots in their specialized news-robot language, and that is all of what we must destroy.”
This was met with applause. As conversational, explanatory bloggers, we have no irons in this fire. But the reality is, “most newspapers” are local newspapers, doing the kind of essential, curious reporting that would never get done if only the biggest, best ones survived. In which case, we must say that condemning them to death is pretty harsh. As for the stuff about network news, well, we’ve watched enough action movies to know not to get into a war with the robots.
The Alfred I. duPont-Columbia University Awards [Columbia Journalism School]