Is ultra-shareable news killing journalism?

November 17, 2013

Here at The Switch, we love it when our readers offer smart and thoughtful feedback. That's why, every weekend, we highlight a few standout comments from the stories we've published over the past seven days.

On Tuesday, guest writer Tom Cochran argued that the government needs to do a better job attracting technologists and engineers into its ranks. Reader aeternitas13 lamented many of the political battles that stand in the way:

As a techie who has worked in government circles for the last 10 years, I can tell you that the GS pay scale is absolute crap to even the most threadbare start up salary, and the bureaucratic hurdles that come with the work of being a direct GS employee (in lieu of consulting or subcontracting) squash any hope you have of being relevant. Just in the last year, I've sat in meetings where GS employees argued BlackBerry was still relevant and cloud computing a passing fad that the government shouldn't adopt.

When you have to fight a political appointee who's spent their entire career in policy circles, rather than any hands on experience on technical substance, for a year just to get a budget to purchase IT tech 2 years from now, you're asked to spend nearly 3 years predicting the future of systems with 18 month lifecycles. When you add in a pervasive generational gap from Cold Warriors clinging to systems engineering philosophies suited for 20 year production of F22s , you're often looking at IT delivery timetables that take 4-5 years to produce results at a minimum. By that point, you're 2 generations behind in technology, you've likely had 2-3 contracts change hands with different PMs every 6-months to a year. IT teams get stuck in a perpetual cycle of changing requirements and personnel retraining with little to show for it (other than a 100 page GAO report to Congress detailing how f'ed up your program is, and how things need to change).

When I wrote on Friday about the load that Apple's new software was putting on the Internet's infrastructure, our reader sleeve pointed out the symbiotic relationship between the technology company and the service providers that route all that data to consumers.

leicaman responded:

The biggest problem is that as time goes by, bandwidth is getting cheaper and cheaper to deliver, but the companies controlling the bandwidth are seeing that as an opportunity to complain about heavy users and to add data caps in spite of the fact that it's vastly less expensive than it used to be to deliver bandwidth.

Why? Because they want to charge you $5 a movie from their own Video On Demand service, and not let Netflix deliver you a competitive product. The internet providers should be barred from being content sources, because it creates a conflict of interest in terms of providing an affordable service to customers based on real costs of doing business.

Do short, shareable snippets of news count as journalism? My colleague Timothy Lee highlighted one of the Washington Post's new ventures, Know More. Reader summakor challenged the need for such a program:

I'm not sure what we're learning here. How to increase click-counts and ad revenue by catering to readers of fluff with sub-10 second attention spans? If you want to enhance the social media sharing experience, OK, the headline, sub-headline and a catchy thumbnail or image are what might show up on Facebook. Yes, those elements are critical to people deciding whether they're interested or not. But after that, you still need to have actual content with thoughtful analysis. Not everything important fits in an infographic.

Brian Fung covers technology for The Washington Post, focusing on telecom, broadband and digital politics. Before joining the Post, he was the technology correspondent for National Journal and an associate editor at the Atlantic.
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