Media Reporters’ Online News Hindsight: ‘It Was Stupid For Newspapers To Give Away Their Sh*t For Free’
Portfolio.com’s Jeff Bercovici spoke about the challenges of covering the media world at last night’s Gelf Magazine Media Circus event in Brooklyn.
Last night was Gelf Magazine‘s inaugural Media Circus speaking series event, and we headed to Brooklyn’s JLA Studios to hear a trio of media reporters — Portfolio.com media blogger Jeff Bercovici, author and Vanity Fair contributing editor Seth Mnookin, and Gawker’s Hamilton Nolan — gab about the craft. Despite its rather, ahem, familiar name, the event did what it promised to, which was examine how the media industry “covers and consumes itself,” particularly in a down economy, according to organizer and Gelf staffer Michael Gluckstadt.
Bercovici was first to step up to the mic, discussing some of the reporting challenges specific to the media beat. The media world is a small one, he pointed out, populated by peers who know the full range of a reporter’s tricks. “The people you write about are other journalists,” Bercovici said. “They’re extremely media-savvy. They will actually give me quotes in the third person, like ‘he said.’” Finding another journalism job after holding one in which you cover media can be daunting, according to Bercovici. “You’re also often writing [about] people you could potentially write for, or you used to,” he said. “It raises the conflict of interest possibility to a whole new level.” The toughest part of Bercovici’s job, he opined, is that he covers a shrinking sector, which can be demoralizing. “With every passing week, there is less industry to cover,” he said. “It’s just getting depressing. Reading these stories and writing these stories — it just affects your view.” In these challenging times for the media business, Bercovici emphasized that the balance between sensitivity and objectivity is crucial. “You have to be careful to control your tone,” he said. “You have to restrain yourself from sounding gleeful. We have a tendency to do a dance because we got the scoop — especially for bloggers — but these are our friends and colleagues losing their jobs.”