More about the future of journalism

I recently came across a whole series of articles dealing with the way that journalism is or is not taking advantage of social media.  Lately, there’s been some discussion about how the PR field has embraced Web 2.0 (Kintzler) in much more substantial ways than news media companies.  Continuing in that vein, Social Media Today provides some advice for journalism. First is a definition of social media: “In essence, it’s using technology to communicate and interact in new ways and share elements like text, photos, audio and videos.”  Seems like that would be an obvious fit for newspapers. But, then the article veers into the area that is most uncomfortable . “Why rely on a journalist to portray your client in a positive light when you can immediately hand-deliver the news to the people who care to know about it? Why buy an ad, when you can recruit a strong following of friends and fans who vouch for your brand or product?”

Another Kintzler story goes further with advice: He talks about journalists as problem solvers, newspapers as community centers, and newspapers as a social news source.  I have long said that the people who need to be working in the news profession are those that understand these concepts and can manage information within this environment.  That doesn’t necessarily mean people who wrangle html and are Flash gurus.  But, it does mean people who understand both the potential and the risks of social media and user-generated content. He mentions WiredJournalists.com, which is a great social network of people that are experts/seeking to become experts in the interactive, multimedia, social media environment. I encourage all of you with an interest in the field to join.

The article mentions the NY Times as an innovator in this area.  It links to a story about how the Times is opening up its API to developers, much like that of major social networks like Facebook.   That’s how they have been able to grow so quickly.  This article quotes Aron Pilhofer, interactive editor at the times, who I had the pleasure of meeting at UT this past March.  Pilhofer said “make the NYT programmable. Everything we produce should be organized data.”  This is a new way of thinking for newspapers and other news companies, but they need to get their brains around it as soon as possible.

As I was clicking around this thread, I found a few other interesting pieces.  One is a memo sent to Tribune company employees by management. The article points to two problems:

1. We are not giving readers what they want, and
2. We are printing bigger papers than we can afford to print

Yes, these are big problems.   It recommends a customer-centric model focused on unbiased journalism, local coverage, and visual media (maps, graphs, lists, rankings, stats).

Then I found this great article ranking the top 25 newspapers on their online presence. The NY Times got the best grade , a solid A.  The worst was the Sacramento Bee with a D-, but the Chicago Tribune, Dallas Morning News, and Newark Star Ledger were not close behind with sold D’s.  I was also quite surprised to see that the Minneapolis Star Tribune got a B-, when the were once doing some very innovative media.  I have noticed recently that it is difficult to access multimedia projects on the site.

Another good article compared Google’s news coverage to Washington Post as a story develops.  The article demonstrates how newspaper sites are burying the things that readers need to see most.

And finally, I came across this article on two user-generated magazines.  If you thought magazines were immune to all this Web 2.0 stuff, think again.  Everywhere Magazine and JPG are two that are letting users write content and upload photos.  Everywhere actually puts out a call to users to help them with issues (“Help Us Make Issue 4,” with themes specified).  This is another example of the publication MANAGING, not dictating, the user-generated content.  I think the examples used about travel magazines are very relevant.  Why not let more people who have visited places write about them?

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