A couple of weeks back, there was a kerfuffle on the Internet about remarks Bob Woodward made after reading some papers written by journalism students at Yale University. Woodward told a panel at the American Society of News Editors that when the students’ professor, Steven Brill, asked them to speculate on how Watergate would be covered today, they “wrote that, ‘Oh, you would just use the Internet and you’d go to “Nixon’s secret fund” and it would be there.'”
Woodward told the panel that the Yalies’ unshakable belief in the Internet as “a magic lantern that lit up all events” nearly gave him an aneurysm. He said, “I have attempted to apply some corrective information to them, but the basic point is: the truth of what goes on is not on the Internet. [The Internet] can supplement. It can help advance. But the truth resides with people. Human sources.”
The Internet may not be a magic lantern, but Woodward’s remarks, which were reported byThe Washington Post, certainly lit it up. “The Internet is — almost by definition — a network of people, and therefore a treasure trove of human sources,” scolded Politico’s Dylan Byers. “Woodward (not surprisingly, perhaps) still seems to see journalism as something that lone-cowboy-style reporters do in secret by themselves, rather than a collaborative process that now involves other people,” including the audience, fumed Mathew Ingram on GigaOM. New York University journalism professor Jay Rosen was even harsher. “I don’t even believe this anecdote about moronic Yale students that Bob Woodward used to illustrate how clueless young people are today about journalism,” he posted on Facebook. “It sounds made-up or very, very distorted from something one of them wrote.”
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