In this week's issue of TIME magazine, arriving in print and online tomorrow, columnist James Poniewozik uses the passing of Tim Russert to highlight the decline of the Old Media and the rise of the New Media, described as "bloggers and YouTubers: a diffuse army of the uncredentialed, uninhibited and -- most terrifyingly -- unpaid. In Russert, the press lost its most authoritative mass-market journalist, just as it is losing its authority and its mass market."
Poniewozik explains: "It's too simple to say that the new media are killing off the old media. ...What's happening instead is a kind of melding of roles. Old and new media are still symbiotic, but it's getting hard to tell who's the rhino and who's the tickbird."
He cites "two of the biggest stories of the Democratic primary: Barack Obama's comments that working-class voters are 'bitter' and Bill Clinton's rope-line rant that a reporter who profiled him was 'scumbag.' Both were broken by a volunteer for the Huffington Post website, Mayhill Fowler."
Traditional reporters, he observes, "were aghast at Fowler's methods... But mainstream media had no problem treating the scoops as big news... The case against Fowler, in other words, was about process and credentials, not content... Fowler's stories prove that one reason sites like Huffington have an audience is the perception that Establishment journalism has gotten better at serving its powerful sources than its public."
Poniewozik goes on to mention other ways the boundary between new and old media has become "porous," before concluding, with another Russert reference: "Maybe we'll remember this election as the one when we stopped talking about 'the old media' and 'the new media' and, simply, met the press."
Greg Mitchell's new book is So Wrong for So Long: How the Press, the Pundits -- and the President -- Failed on Iraq. He is editor of Editor & Publisher.