Thursday, October 8, 2009

(empo-tuulwey) Another look at online journalism

A year ago, in October 2008, I wrote an empo-tuulwey post and didn't know it. The post, which was in my former mrontemp blog, was entitled Distinguishing between methods and technology - what is a newspaper?. It began as follows:

Oftentimes we get caught up in various technologies, and think that the technologies are themselves a solution to a problem.

Actually, they are tools that can be used as a solution to the problem.

In the course of the post, I noted:

[I]t's important to note what [Duncan Riley] is saying and what he isn't saying. Riley is speaking of a particular technology - the technology of taking pieces of paper, printing stuff on them, and delivering them to news stands and homes. He is not saying that professional news organizations will disappear; they'll just shift to a different medium.

A few months later, self-described "recovering journalist" Mark Potts took note of some things happening in the online arena. One example:

Stuck in a traditional one-size-fits-all mentality, many news organizations have had problems thinking about creating great niche sites to target specific audience segments. Gannett, however, has quietly built a network of local sites aimed at mothers that now has dozens of outposts under the MomsLikeMe banner. A recent redesign–which brought the initial sites onto a new platform under one banner–unfortunately cost the sites a lot of their personality. But the MomsLikeMe sites still do a great job of providing a forum where mothers can exchange information, tips, stories, whatever–and where advertisers can reach those moms. The format is much more like a community bulletin board than a traditional news site, with lots of user-generated content. That's a very good thing, because it means authenticity, participation, engagement–and inexpensive content.

Potts also noted some non-community, professional things that were going on.

...there's The New York Times' David Pogue, the tech reporter who's made a science out of creating witty, guerilla-style videos that trade overproduction for humor, substance and personality. The results are videos that, like the best of YouTube, get forwarded all over the place and viewed by literally millions of people. Rather than trying to out-TV TV, every print news organization should be showcasing newsroom personalities (and newsrooms always have their share of personalities!) in videos that will entertain as well as inform.

In my own backyard, there's David Allen of the Inland Valley Daily Bulletin. His articles were already written from a personal point of view, so he was the ideal person to branch out into blogging. The blog posts are supplementary to his regular columns in the paper, and venture into topics that probably aren't covered otherwise (to my knowledge, Allen does not speak about company-imposed furloughs in the paper itself).

Of course, when you use a different tool, you have to note the differences in the tool. The main difference between a printed newspaper article and an online article or blog post is the immediacy of response. In the print world, an article on Monday may result in a "letter to the editor" on Wednesday, but in the blog world, a blog post can result in immediate comment, followed by an immediate response from the author. Look at how David Allen does it in his blog. Unfortunately, he apparently doesn't participate in the Topix-hosted comments that are tied to his newspaper articles.

It will be interesting to see how this immediacy of response changes news coverage as time marches on.
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