Quantity or Quality: Which is the better approach for contemporary media?

Recently, I posted some thoughts on the transformation of the media from a "gatekeeper" role in which a limited number of outlets and time allowed media to screen what was put out for public consumption, into a wide range of outlets, each now competing for who can get the most news out in the least time, to keep from being scooped by all the other outlets.

A prime example is discussed by a mea culpa story that ran in today's online edition of USA Today. The news media outlet published nearly half its papers with reports that the West Virginia miners were found alive. Instead of all but one alive, it turned out that all but one were found DEAD.

A finding of the research of Michael Delli Carpini and Bruce Williams was that the media will often rush stories out to their audiences without vetting them. This is also a criticism which has been made of the now-famous Dan Rather "Memogate" (why do scandals now have to end in "gate" anyway?), in which a big story was rushed to the public, only to have it quickly debunked. In the past, when media was under more control by these "gatekeepers", these stories had time to be vetted before the evening news or morning paper ran, but in the 24-hour news cycle, it seems to be more about getting the story out first before getting it right.

As Dan Rather found out last year, USA Today found out that you can take a major story, rush it to the public, and really blow it in doing so.

While there are benefits from the "democratization" of news coverage, the lack of professional filtering and vetting certainly has its drawbacks, which have the potential to be rather harmful indeed.

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