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Tuesday, December 05, 2006

Watch For Too Much Opinion In New Media, Journalist Says

Too much opinion versus reporting -- not over-polarization of readers into opposing camps --may be the problem with the proliferation of contemporary media, a well-known Washington journalist says.

Jonathan Rauch, senior writer and columnist for the respected National Journal and correspondent for the venerable The Atlantic Monthly, says he doesn't worry about polarization of readers and welcomes the diversity of sources and the fact that the public can now serve to a large extent as its own editor.

"Two different parties make it much easier to have concentrated shout fests when people are separated this way instead of intermingled through party and ideology. Well, it is no surprise that the media would follow that or people, too," he says.

Rather, Rauch says his concern is "not the ratio of the civil to the uncivil, the hot versus the cool, and the loud versus the mild but of opinions to reportage."

Too much attention is paid on opinions and punditry and too little on reporting facts and the news, he adds.

Rauch made his comments at a recent forum at the Brookings Institution, a Washington think tank.

"It concerns me that opinion is very, very inexpensive to produce. Anybody can get on TV and spout dribble. Anybody can stand here at this podium spout dribble. I cite myself as evidence of that fact right now. It is very expensive to produce news, to go out and find things out, to send correspondents around the world, to get them edited sensibly and responsibly. All that costs real money," Rauch says.

"What we are seeing over time is the diversification, I believe, away from news and toward opinion. My hope is that will put a higher market premium on the value of news and increase over time the price that it commands. But my fear is that instead of looking at polarization, what we ought to be looking at is what [is called] opinionization, that is, the proliferation of cheap sources of words that fill the air but actually are awfully short on content."


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