The Problem With the Old Media and New Media Debate

I am intrigued by the meta story surrounding the University of Toledo sexual harassment and resignation scandal. It’s not the story of leaked text messages that gets me, as gross and tiring as it is. Instead, it’s the old media versus new media argument that has resurfaced because of it. Which is just as tiring.

Both Deadspin and the Toledo Blade were working on breaking a story. On Tuesday, Deadspin posted it at 2:45 a.m., while the posted at 7:13 a.m. That’s not exactly problematic; but the responses of both organizations was. Dave Murray, managing editor of the Blade, called out Deadspin on Twitter:

The difference between the coverage of this story by The Blade and Deadspin is that [Blade reporter Ryan] Autullo is a professional journalist who has named sources and you can believe what he reports.

Can’t we all just get along? Jim Romenesko’s blog has some insight about why print sport’s journalists may not like sites like Deadspin that, as he says, take sport’s journalism off the field and into the locker room. As we’ve found out, that’s where you break some big stories. It was Deadspin, after all, who shocked the media by breaking the Manti Te’o story. This shouldn’t become a shouting match were new and old media try to prove who is more reliable, who has more worthy sources, or who’s doing it right.

At this point, like Kurt Franck, executive editor of The Blade says in a letter, old media is new media now. They have websites and social media feeds to monitor. And they also print things on paper. The paradigm of this debate is so 2006.

To imply that Deadspin writers, or any sports blogger who consistently report and break news, aren’t “real” journalists is missing the point. And to dismiss The Blade, as Deadspin editor Tommy Craggs did, by implying the “other guy” took from the Deadspin report is just as silly. Dave Murray points out on Politico that the paper knew they were competing with Deadspin for the story and wanted to post it, but reporter Ryan Autullo still had some facts to confirm. Can we get a round of applause for good practices? If they had run the story without confirming those facts and something was amiss, we’d be berating them for not taking their time and lauding the ease of digital journalism. Deadspin felt they had their ducks in a row and posted it mere hours beforehand. I know that hours on the internet are long. But still, it was the middle of the night.

There is no scandal here. Except that representatives from both organizations felt the need to dig at the other. The point is that just because a news outlet prints a paper along with updating their website doesn’t make them “old” (fashioned). Everyone was just trying to do their job. Both did it well. It would be one thing if the The Blade did copy the Deadspin story and passed it off as their own online and in the snail mail version. The Blade had good, on-record interviews with all parties involved; Deadspin had copies of the text messages and other good digital touches to accompany their reporting.

It’s just a case of two outlets breaking the same news, in their own way. The cat fight taking place on the sidelines is embarrassing. It seems like everyone should just get over themselves. We’re all journalists and we all want budgets to fund investigative reporting and our salaries. If anything, we should be happy that “traditional” media like The Blade is managing to do just that. And that the writers over at Deadspin are just as on point.

It’s really a case for the best of both worlds. Do we really have to distinguish between old and new media anymore?