Posts Tagged 'newspaper'

Curation

Can ‘Curation’ Save Media? — an article written by Steve Rosenbaum in The Business Insider asks.

The arguments he makes are a better-formulated version of what I was trying to say in a previous post where I said newspapers have to be gateways, instead of gatekeepers, for the news.

Rosenbaum writes:

The old model was “one to many”  (NBC -> viewers). The new model is “one to a few” (YOU -> your friends and followers). That means there is an overwhelming explosion of content being created (Twitter feeds, blog posts, Flickr photos, Facebook updates) and most of it is interesting to a very small number of people. But, mixed in with this cacophony of consumer content, there is contextually relevant material that needs to be discovered, sorted, and made “brand safe” for advertisers.

Curation is the new role of media professionals.

Separating the wheat from the chaff, assigning editorial weight, and — most importantly – giving folks who don’t want to spend their lives looking for an editorial needle in a haystack a high-quality collection of content that is contextual and coherent. It’s what we always expected from our media, and now they’ve got the tools to do it better.

Yes, that’s right, the future of media is better, not worse. It’s more detailed, multi-faceted and nuanced. And, just more.

But can curation save media? I don’t know. It’s definitely a job made for editors. But we can’t only be linking to what others are producing. We still have to produce quality information ourselves.

Consolidation

Across the pond, British MPs have put forward a motion calling on the government to support local journalism. It’s garnered the support of 100 MPs, the Guardian’s Roy Gleenslade reports, mostly Labour representatives but also a handful of Tories.

The motion is partly in response to the formation of an alliance of regional publishers who want the government to relax merger restrictions to help them get through these difficult times. The motion points out that local journalism has suffered cutbacks and asks that any government action “ensure that state support, either in the form of deregulatory measures or financial help, is given only where firm guarantees on investment in local journalism are secured.”

To further bolster their argument, I would ask those MPs to also take a look at Canada, where two of our largest media organizations, Canwest (which owns my paper, plus 12 other dailies and the Global TV network and a bunch of specialty stations, etc. etc.) and CTVglobemedia (which owns CTV as well as the Globe & Mail and other stations etc. etc.) are floundering in this economy despite their flurry of mergers and cross-media acquisitions.

Both companies have either put smaller (locally focused) TV stations on the block or are in the process of shuttering them (the E! channels for Global and the A channels for CTV). Both companies have slashed jobs and spending. All those mergers didn’t help them and actually made the situation worse because of the debt involved in the initial acquisitions.

In other news…

Gannett Co. is consolidating copy editing and page production for four New Jersey papers. This is also something my parent company has tried (in terms of page production), with direct effects on my department.

It’s yet another example of the dilution of local papers. If you have a copy editor editing copy about a city council meeting who isn’t familiar with the council members, let alone the geography and history of the city, you lose that extra layer of fact-checking. In terms of page design, how much control will be lost at the local level about what gets featured prominently in the pages and what’s shoved to the back? What happens when there’s breaking news and there’s no one around with the authority to make the call about what to move around?

I wish them luck in their transition.

Decentralization

In a TechDirt post last week, Timothy Lee references a Reason magazine article called After the Newspaper. Both pieces discuss how news is moving from a vertically integrated structure (one company controlling the news-dissemination process from story gathering to paper delivery) to a dispersed network structure (what we’ve got going on online).

It’s true that mass media organizations have become too monolithic, and are paying the price in this economy for their multimillion-dollar buying sprees. In cities where there used to be multiple dailies competing and publishing, there is often only one (and in the whole of Western Canada, for example, all the major dailies are owned by the same company and publish much of the same content). The lack of multiple voices in that sphere is something I wouldn’t be sorry to see change.

But this idea from the TechCrunch article is, I think, a little romantic:

Decentralized news-gathering processes can incorporate small contributions from a huge number of people who aren’t primarily in the news business. You don’t need to be a professional reporter to write a blog post every couple of weeks about your local city council meeting. Nor do you need to be a professional editor to mark your favorite items in Google Reader. Yet if millions of people each contribute small amounts of time to this kind of decentralized information-gathering, they can collectively do much of the work that used to be done by professional reporters and editors.

We already have that kind of “decentralized information-gathering” going on. And I don’t think it’s suited to the average citizen’s needs.

For example, I’ve become interested, in the last few months, in one specific topic: the transformation of in how we communicate, with a focus on the transformation in journalism. That’s why I started this blog, because I wanted to get a better feel for what was happening by trying some of it out myself, rather than just reading about it. Currently I subscribe to 18 blogs related specifically to this topic, which means I’m reading more than 40 entries every day. (I also consume a lot of other media, in the general news realm, but that’s beside the point.) Frankly, it’s a little overwhelming — even though I also do this sort of thing for a living!

One of the most time-consuming parts of my job (the one I get paid to do, at the newspaper), is wading through all the content and selecting what goes into the paper (when I’m doing one of the wire-based sections such as arts or national news). And there, I’m only wading through stories that have been written by trained reporters working under experienced editors. I do it so all our readers don’t have to, and they trust that what’s in the paper is what’s most relevant to them (generally speaking).

Those readers, as they shift to online, still need a place to go to get their news in a time-efficient manner. While I can see how decentralized news gathering is useful, I still believe centralized news editing is necessary. Most people don’t have time to edit their own news. I barely have time to digest my own news.

Content Part III

At work last night, I came across a story that got me thinking: a national story about Earth Hour. We’d covered Earth Hour like crazy in the week leading up to it and it was a given it would have to go in the paper.

In Canada goes dark for Earth Hour, the reporter quoted from the official Earth Hour Facebook site, a blogger in Ottawa, a blogger in Halifax, a person who attended an Earth Hour event in Toronto, an Ontario electricity spokesperson, the Earth Hour website, a Canadian Tire store’s website, an online activity list for a school in Alberta and a woman named Evelyn.

So of nine sources quoted in the story (an impressive number on the surface), two were from apparent interviews and seven were from online research.

My opinion on this is just my own opinion — other editors and reporters obviously feel differently — but to me, this is bad reporting, for two reasons.

  1. It’s lazy. Instead of doing the legwork and setting up interviews, the reporter surfs the Internet. Quoting from blogs and websites and Facebook pages sometimes has its place, but to build an article mainly around that is lazy. Interviews are two-way streets, with follow-up questions and interaction, and are a much better way to collect information.
  2. It’s dangerous. If we as journalists are just quoting from websites and blogs, what in the world do we have to offer that websites and blogs don’t offer? Why don’t we just make a bunch of links for our readers and abandon ship?

(A note: the version that ran in our paper, with a photo from Ottawa, was shortened, partly for space reasons.)

Now, the Internet is no doubt an amazing tool for journalists (I find it so hard to imagine/remember what it was like when I didn’t have a Google query at my fingertips for any question). It provides so many more tools for finding sources and researching issues. But should it become a substitution for interview-based reporting?

My answer to that is no. A vehement no. And it goes back to the argument I made in the Content Content Content post: The most valuable thing news organizations have to offer is the original reporting, the information you can’t get anywhere else.

Maybe you could make the argument that news organizations could provide a role in writing stories based on Internet research because the reporter is still doing the valuable job of spending the time browsing the sites and condensing the information down to a 500-word story. But it is still just a regurgitation of information that is already out there and in my opinion, our time should be better spent bringing new information to the table.

Newspaper Death Watch

I’ve gotten a bit sidetracked from my first project: Sharing the websites I like to visit regularly. So here’s another instalment.

Newspaper Death Watch is what it says it is — a chronicle of newspapers dead and dying. It just celebrated its second birthday yesterday (March 23) but it’s been a jam-packed two years.

For anyone interested in a chronicle of the woes of the newspaper industry (focused on the U.S.), this site has already done a lot of your research for you. Generally there’s one long post Monday-Friday but when there’s news breaking on the closure of a paper, there will usually be a post on Newspaper Death Watch. Plus there’s the ever-so-encouraging Layoff Log. And R.I.P. bar.

Occasionally, Canada’s problems get a nod. It’s important to pay attention to what’s going on the States, though, because I think they’re a step ahead on the imploding-newspaper scale. For a lot of papers down there, it’s too late. But for others (like my own) it’s not too late yet and if there’s lessons to be learned, we should be learning them. More on that later.


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