Here’s something you don’t see often: A technology journalist at a major publication who acknowledges that Dave Winer doesn’t know what the hell he’s talking about. Jason Pontin, the editor and publisher of Technology Review, writes this in How to Save Media:
The Gotterdammerung-of-mainstream-media argument has a weak and a strong formulation. …
The strong version is most associated with Dave Winer, a grumpy California software programmer best known for helping to develop the Web-feed format RSS and for his blog, Scripting News. Winer has written, and not without glee, “Fifteen years ago I was unhappy with the way journalism was practiced in the tech industry, so I took matters into my own hands. And then dozens of people did, and then hundreds followed, and now we get much better information about tech. It will happen everywhere, in politics, education, the military, health, science, you name it. The sources will fill in where we used to need journalists. … Everyone is now a journalist.”
If media companies can’t earn money, and everyone is a journalist, it follows that “amateurs” (Shirky) and “sources” (Winer) will be part of a “decentralized” media (Winer), whose stories will be distributed by “excitable 14-year-olds” (Shirky).
This is all folly and ignorance. Shirky, Winer, and other evangelists know nothing about the business of media. True, the journalists who write about these matters for mainstream media often know as little; I didn’t understand much until I became the publisher of Technology Review as well as its editor in chief. But Shirky and Winer are disgruntled consumers and, as bloggers, advocates for an insurrection. Thus, they are to be read skeptically. Their prescriptions would be more convincing if they were less polemical and better informed by some knowledge of what publishers sell.
Winer’s been treated like an informed media expert for years, but his entire professional experience in journalism consists of writing commentary for Wired for one year back in the ’90s.
Pontin goes on to say on Twitter, when criticized over the piece, that “These people are, I think, insane. Filled with hostility, completely impractical, and, in the final analysis, dishonest.” Winer doesn’t know journalism, but at least one journalist knows him pretty well.