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Raw Fisher: Toast

If today's weren't the last installment of Raw Fisher, I might be writing about a small victory -- the District's decision yesterday to save the Eastern Branch and two other Boys & Girls Clubs, a cause I've tried to champion here for years -- or about Half A Tank, a new blog chronicling a journey across the Washington region and beyond by a Post photographer and writer searching for the stories of this recession.

But today is the end of this particular road, and so I thought I'd use this last moment to offer readers one final chance to explain just why the positions I've taken are completely boneheaded, why the stories I've told fail to represent the truth, and why journalism is going to seed. Today marks the end of the Raw Fisher blog, and at noon, the last regular edition of the Potomac Confidential chat will be live here on the big web site -- we'll mix it up on the issues of the day and on your views about the column, the blog, The Post and the future of the news media.

In my farewell column on Sunday, I wrote about the strengths and structural problems both the new media and the traditional print media have faced as I've experienced the great transition during my decade of writing the column:

There was something empowering about the new media, the digital technology that let readers speak out in the same format, the same time frame and the same space as the news that had hitherto been delivered from on high.
I loved the new battleground of ideas even as I lamented how opinion -- the laziest form of journalism -- was elbowing out the rigorous work of reporting. In this new world, it was so cheap to mouth off that the difficult and sometimes less-exciting work of ferreting out facts became too easy to discard or trim back.

What's your sense of how the evolution toward web-based news has altered the content and usefulness of journalism? Is it harder to find common ground for conversation and political debate in a country where everyone's reading and watching a different diet of information, or does the depth and personalization of Internet journalism make up for the loss of mass media?

Are we as Washington area residents better able to deal with the challenges in our daily lives because we can connect through neighborhood listservs and other such targeted, detailed media, or have we lost something because fewer people share the same stories that they used to find in the paper or on radio or TV? Or both?

In my new gig at The Post, we're going to try to find the stories that reveal truths about the hard questions facing people who live in this region. My belief is that the way to do that is almost always to go micro -- to find the people, issues, conflicts and places whose detailed stories help us understand the lives we all live, even if we're two or twenty miles away from the site of that story.

But the shrinking of the news media means there will be less routine coverage of the daily doings of some institutions that determine how kids are educated, how safe our streets are, who's running our government or how we're caring for those in need.

I'd like to hear your thoughts about how to make those choices -- both here on the comment board and during our last chat together at noon today.

Finally, many thanks to the great many of you who have written in to say how much you've liked our conversation here, even when we disagree on some of the big issues. I've tried over the years to respond to nearly all of the 250,000 e-mails and questions that have come rolling in.

The interaction with readers, here and on the chat and through the column, has been one of the most rewarding aspects of this job, and I hope our conversations will continue.

By Marc Fisher |  June 4, 2009; 7:21 AM ET  | Category:  Baseball , City life , Maryland , Newspapers , The District , Virginia
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Comments

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Posted by: wiredog | June 4, 2009 7:33 AM

You have to accept that one of the main reasons of demise of paper/large media is their skewed positions taken on various issues and how they try to shape the mass mindsets instead of providing actual information and analysis.

Obama campaign is a case in point. Readers are not fools and any concerned reader will be able to see how the monolithic media establishments virtually push someone's agenda with all of their resources. during the whole campaign period, not one of the large media houses carried the seminal question: Is Obama a US citizen?

This is why we all now visit smaller shops, one bit iReporters and small time blogs and tend to accept their inputs with seriousness as we know that they have very little in terms of capital to risk, so they can afford to be truthful.

Posted by: ssensharma | June 4, 2009 10:22 AM

Marc,

I enjoyed your farewell column and have enjoyed your writing over the years, though I have only agreed with your stances maybe half of the time. And I've never understood your bizarre hatred for deer and dogs...

Good luck in your new role.

Posted by: conchfc | June 4, 2009 10:30 AM

As a longtime reader and fan, I don't think it's a good idea to end your column, blog AND chats! Ending these 3 resources is going to gut the Metro section, and the new venture sounds vague and ill-defined. Why not keep the blog going, or the weekly chats? The void they will leave simply provides an opening for the Examiner or the Washington Times to jump in there and further erode the Washington Post's dominnace in the area.

Posted by: MrTinDC | June 4, 2009 11:14 AM

"Obama campaign is a case in point. Readers are not fools and any concerned reader will be able to see how the monolithic media establishments virtually push someone's agenda with all of their resources. during the whole campaign period, not one of the large media houses carried the seminal question: Is Obama a US citizen?"

Posted by: ssensharma | June 4, 2009 10:22 AM
________________
Put your tinfoil hat away and step away from the Kool-Aid. You need to ask yourself why the conservative media did not ask about the immoral and illegal wars started by Bush 43. Where's the yellow-cake uranium? Where are the weapons of mass destructions? Where is Dick Cheney's brain?

Posted by: bs2004 | June 4, 2009 11:54 AM

I will miss your columns and on-line commentary. To the extent you plan to continue doing some of the same things in your new position, today's DC Court of Appeals decision may provide some material about our local government and its sometimes misplaced priorities. http://www.dcappeals.gov/dccourts/appeals/pdf/07-CV-1003.PDF

Posted by: hamtech | June 4, 2009 11:55 AM

@ssensharma Actually, I would argue that the newspapers like the Washington Post are more widely read now than 20-30 years ago. Someone in Germany, Thailand, South Africa can read the Washington Post while before it couldn't be read outside of the Washington Metro area. I'm thinking online unique readership is humongous compared to the print version.

The problem with newspapers is that circulation is going down because more people are reading online, the online profit model hasn't evolved to replace the circulation profit, and craigslist singlehandedly killed classifieds, another source of revenue.

Posted by: Joran | June 4, 2009 12:12 PM

@bs2004:
As far as I remember, big media also did not ask the same questions about Bush-Cheney-Rumsfield axis of evil. We all remember how everyone supported the launch of Iraq war, editorial downwards.

I hope you remember how big media put Kerry's surfing photo on banner. My point remains that big media tries to push their own agenda too much as they have a lot of capital at stake. But news has to be truthful and analysis should show two sides. WP does not carry much of conservative viewpoints. Otherwise they might have put Rush out of business.

Posted by: ssensharma | June 4, 2009 12:23 PM

I must agree with MrTinDC: say it ain't so.

Consider keeping the blog up and using it occasionally to solicit input for developing projects and posting links to newly completed stories.

The most useful blog feedback is often from readers, not commenters. For example, When a blog's statistical dashboard indicates high reader interest in specific older posts, it is clearly time to revisit those topics.

Posted by: MikeLicht | June 4, 2009 12:30 PM

I kind of like talking to people and saying, "well I read here..." and they say, "oh yeah? I heard here..." and seeing what the differences are. I also like the freedom to make comments to more standard news stories. I've found far too often that talking back to the TV or radio just isn't as satisfying as making comments here at WashingtonPost.com. And seeing some of the crazy stuff people come up with...it's entertainment!

Still, there's room for standard journalism and hard facts, and I wish there were more of those. It's impossible to know what to trust and believe any more. If anything, the digital age has made us more cynical of the world around us. There are good and bad things about that. I suppose in the end, it's all about progress, and I'm going to see both the good and the bad as it comes, and deal with it in my own way, just as anyone else does.

Posted by: akchild | June 4, 2009 2:37 PM

I think journalist and reader commentary go hand in hand. I think that the WaPo has the right mix and is why I think that the WaPo is still the most dominant source of news in the DC metro area (even over TV news, radio like WTOP, and other sources). If you combine the dead-tree version with the on-line version, I bet that this is a significantly higher portion of the news audience than any other source in our area.

I think it is important to have journalists who research and present their articles and cases as a central starting point of a conversation. The comment boards then allow others to weigh in on the topic of the article. This combination is what makes this forum significantly more 21st century than any other medium. It combines news production with the virtual water cooler on a much larger scale. I think this is the most contemporary news model, but the major newspapers just have to find a way to adapt the business model to make it profitable (or at least self-sustaining).

Posted by: DadWannaBe | June 4, 2009 5:48 PM

I think that Marc's columns by-and-large tend to be of the caliber of a neighbor talking across the fence. I never quite understood why he was writing a column like this which wasn't quite political, it wasn't quite slice-of-life.

It was never insightful, and when it tried to be provocative, it was just, sort of, ummmm cute.

I don't wish Marc ill; in fact, I hope he does well and makes $100M dollars, his children all marry well, and his wife wins the lottery.

Posted by: Ombudsman1 | June 4, 2009 10:10 PM

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