Will Gawker-effect create a journalistic age of 'lies and idiocy'?

So-called ‘market minded’ journalism is likely to dictate the future of the industry, according to eminent American journalist James Fallows.

In an article on the future of journalism for US publication The Atlantic, Fallows visited the former Financial Times journalist turned internet entrepreneur Nick Denton, founder of Gawker Media and managing editor of the news site gawker.com.

Denton is a pioneer of market minded journalism, in which the news agenda is dictated solely by what audiences want and “not what someone else thinks they should have”.

According to Fallows, Denton has developed “the most refined tools ever created for knowing exactly what an audience wants to see and read, as opposed to someone’s opinion of what it should want or ‘needs’ to know”.

One example is the huge screen at Gawker’s HQ showing real time traffic to its website (Gawker Media’s websites attract around 32m unique users a month).

As users log in and out of the site the needles on the meters go up and down to register a story’s popularity – and in turn dictate the news agenda.

When he asked one Gawker journalist how he decides what to write about, he replied: “I just try to figure out, if I were to go to a party, what would everyone want to talk about? And that is what I’d want to write about.”

Denton tells Fallows: “Now I tell writers that the numbers (ie the audience) wont support any worthiness. We can’t even write stories about moguls like Rupert Murdoch or Barry Diller unless it involves photographs of them cavorting with young flesh.”

Fallows concludes that one of the greatest fears for modern journalism is that “this will become an age of lies, idiocy, and a complete Babel of ‘truthiness’ in which no trusted arbiter can establish reality or fact.”

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