Brian Fuller's blog on the media, marketing and content creation

Defining journalism

Posted on | September 6, 2007 | 6 Comments

There’s a brilliant behind the scenes banter going on below. (I call it out because sometimes I miss that in other blogs because I’m lazy). Fantastic input from Mike, Island Mike, and Loring.
It’s all about the nature of journalism and what defines journalism and so on, at least in the business-to-business space. I’ll be frank: real journalism has never been practiced in the B:B space, at least not in the electronics sector.
Real journalism hasn’t been practiced in the mainstream for years, maybe since Watergate and the Pentagon Papers before that maybe the muckrackers at the turn of the century.
I define good journalism as enterprise and lots of hard work, some down dead alleys. Stories that take more than a few hours to do. Stories that take six months and that some people really don’t want aired. Most journalism today is show me your product, call the competitors, call the analysts and make some educated assessment on whether it has success in the market space.
This is a national tragedy that we’re starting to come to grips with.
But if you want a little hope, check out your alternative weeklies in many cities in the U.S. Those guys and gals have been practicing real journalism. And check out how thick those issues are. Reminds me of EE Times in 1999.
There’s hope in print. There’s hope online that strong independent voices will arise (are arising).
But in B:B there was always an implicit agreement going back 40 years: you buy our ads, we’ll deliver you the audience (and we won’t piss you off too much). Cynical? Don’t tell my kids. I describe it as healthy skepticism.

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6 Responses to “Defining journalism”

  1. Mike Santarini
    September 7th, 2007 @ 10:55 am

    Fulla, You said “I’ll be frank: real journalism has never been practiced in the B:B space…”

    ??? I (Cataldo and a couple more of us ex-EEters and Merrit) must have been out (in a courtroom somewhere) breaking real news stories when you sent that memo out…damn, now it makes sense, no one told me we were really an advertising agency. I always wanted to write commercials? turns out I’ve been writing advertisements for years…

    Here’s one a journalist named Brian Fuller broke:

    the list goes on and on…advertising’s Fun!

  2. Lee Flanagin
    September 7th, 2007 @ 11:27 am

    Comrade Mikhail is right. I “fondly” recall EET (Mike) breaking lots of hard news stories…and sometimes people’s genitals (like mine) in the process. Who can forget the Avant! courtroom drama? Who can forget the infamous “Penny’s Reign of Terror” article? Not I. Maybe Brother Brian is inhaling too much exhaust during his bicycle commutes. Or he’s having too much fun in PR Weenie Land. Welcome to the club. 🙂

  3. Lou Covey
    September 7th, 2007 @ 11:48 am

    Oh, keep your knickers from knotting, guys. Brian makes a generalized statement and you take it personally.

    Take all the hard news articles in EE Times, E News, EDN, Electronic Design, etc. over the past 10 years and it won’t match the amount of hard news found in one year in the Redwood City Daily News. That’s the nature of the beast, especially in EDA, because there are more people in Redwood City then in all of that industry. And if it weren’t for the lawsuits, there wouldn’t be any hard news to cover.

    The success of the B:B trade press has a direct connection to the success of the industries they cover. If the industry doesn’t do well, the magazines don’t do well. And right now, the electronics industry is consolidating like mad and outsourcing its job force. VC firms are not funding companies in the space like they used to and there are very few people in the industry, especially EDA, that understand marketing. It’s all just sales and engineering. So it’s no wonder they don’t value the publications.

    The fact is, however, with the help of the internet, readership of publications is up…way up. so more people are interested in reading the articles than ever. The only answer now is to make internet advertising closer in cost to print.

    You guys are doing a great job, considering the market and how you have to work. But it is what it is.

  4. Greeley's Ghost
    September 7th, 2007 @ 12:14 pm

    You guys are fun to spin up! I’m making a clear distinction between routine journalism and enterprise journalism, which is sorely lacking in B:B (and in general media these days). Sitting in a courtroom writing dispatches is routine journalism. I did that for years; do did Mike. Breaking a story on a court decision because you happened to be in the clerk’s office at the right time, that’s a scoop but it’s also heads-up J-101.
    Realizing that a bill passed by the Rhode Island Legislature to give tax breaks to people who homes in historic districts will benefit many including a dozen legislators who own historic homes and voted for the rather than abstain because of a conflict of interest; spending weeks pouring over real estate records to find where EVERY state legislator lived and whether that house was in an historic district and then checking their voting record on the bill.
    That’s enterprise journalism.
    I’m not saying we didn’t break stories but there’s a difference. If we had a real enterprising spirit in B:B, we would have broke the stock-options back-dating story.
    Let’s see, who did break that story? Hmmmm.
    Oh, the Wall Street Journal, serial Pulitzer Prize winner.

  5. Island Mike
    September 9th, 2007 @ 9:28 pm

    Lou’s right: It’s all about the Benjamins…plus, it’s hard for the B2B media to incentivize or encourage good investigative journalism because they can’t afford to have their limited staffs off spending the time to do it. Their writers need to be focused primarily on the mundane – covering product announcements and industry “news” that the advertisers want to see covered. Let’s face it, EE Times didn’t make any more money from the hardhitting stories Brian, Mike or any one else might have broken. Entertaining reading, but virtually no impact on circulation or advertising revenue (unlike Pulizter Prize winning newspapers, not to mention the personal incentives like book deals and movie rights). Sure, we’d all love to see more of it, but I’m not sure sure the publishers do.

    Continuing the Evolution thread: I found an interesting op-ed by the Dean of the Journalism School at Boston Univ., and a follow-on commentary in the National Journal about the convergence of new and old media. The most telling line:

    “When we take our eyeballs to a new media site, we are helping the old media more than hurting them, by showing them what works for us — teaching them to be not weaker but stronger. Are they getting the message?”

    Good reading:

  6. Anonymous
    December 23rd, 2008 @ 8:42 pm

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