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The world of journalism is crumbling! It’s turning on its head!
Actually, website-based journalism is simply growing up.
Business and economy writer Peter Goodman, one of the New York Times’ top writers, is taking his talents to …wait for it….the Huffington Post.
Yes, Goodman is leaving the “Gray Lady” to work for one of the world’s edgiest, fastest growing major media websites, where he will be the business and technology editor.
In a blog post, Catharine Taylor of MediaPost.com calls the move “ More Significant Than You Think.”
Washington Post media critic Howard Kurtz is more measured in his post, calling Goodman’s decision “the latest sign that Web sites can compete on an equal footing with media giants.”
Like most coming of age indicators, the news represents neither a sudden shift in power nor a surprising raid of top talent. Just as cable TV grew up to hire away top network talent, just as USA Today expanded and hired away top talent from other, “more serious newspapers,” the best journalism websites are hiring away talent from the mainstream media. (The Huffington Post also recently added Howard Fineman from the failing Newsweek.)
Just as significant is the fact that Goodman intends to write “lengthy, deep-dive pieces” and to hire a handful of reporters to beef up the website’s business and technology coverage.
This is just my opinion. Of course, as a blogger, I’m free to provide an opinion. Mainstream journalists usually don’t enjoy this freedom. That also is Goodman’s point.
“For me it’s a chance to write with a point of view,” Goodman told Kurtz. “It’s sort of the age of the columnist. With the dysfunctional political system, old conventional notions of fairness make it hard to tell readers directly what’s going on. This is a chance for me to explore solutions in my economic reporting.”
The media are becoming increasingly divided, between those who continually strive to produce objective reporting, who try to limit political opinion to the editorial and op-ed sections of their websites, shows, magazines and newspapers, and those who freely express opinion as they report the news.
Guess what? Those who freely express opinion are gaining the louder microphone.
And now, they have Peter Goodman.
Guess I’ll have to tune in more often.
Do you prefer the Upshot (new media) or the double-dip (old media)?
Both have made splashes in the journalism world recently.
Yahoo! News recently launched its news blog, The Upshot featuring a team of reporters, and perhaps more importantly, a new algorithm-based search engine that will help direct the reporting team’s focus. Here is the low-down on The Upshot.
The double-dip involves a controversial paywall the newspaper in Lancaster, Pa., has instituted. In essence, the Intelligencer Journal-Lancaster New Era paper is charging non-subscribers $1.99 a month to access online obituaries, if they wish to read more than seven obituaries a month. Grieving families pay for those obituaries with the expectation they will be available to whomever can access the print or online newspaper. That will no longer be the case. Pay me to publish, Lancaster’s New Era says, and then pay me to gain access to the paid-for content. Thus the double-dip. (Here is an article that explains the entire experiment.)
Lancaster Editor Ernie Schreiber argues with former newspaper editor Steve Buttry that this innovation is no different than the paper charging for a subscription rather than giving away the paper for free. Here is Buttry’s blog post on their debate.
This is not entirely true. The fact is, subscribers pay for the privilege of reading the ENTIRE paper. Asking someone to pay for access to something that has been free, something that others have paid to be published, is simply a bad idea. It’s innovation for the sake of innovation.
Newspapers are experimenting with paywalls with increasing frequency. Of course, marrying good ideas with new content will lead to increased revenues, and perhaps to new paywalls.
But give me a new blog, with a team of reporters and a hyped-up algorithm any day.
The best newspapers surprise as well as inform. The New York Times performed both duties Sunday when a prominent article questioned the role highly acclaimed “Washington pundits” play in forming public opinion.
Adam Nagourney asked whether the nation’s leading columnists, many of whom work for the New York Times, have they been supplanted as influencers by those who tweet, blog and podcast.
Nagourney examined the public’s response to President Obama’s speech on the Gulf oil spill. Even though pundits declared the speech a failure, President Obama’s approval rating barely nudged.
“Tracking influences on public opinion has become greatly complicated now that the once-exclusive club (of pundits) has been joined by the vast multitudes blogging or posting Twitter updates or otherwise opining online,” Nagourney wrote.
He pointed out that those who tweet initiate opinion and analysis during an event such as the president’s speech. Waiting for the entire event to conclude before rendering an opinion ignores the power of the real-time tweet.
“Elite opinion still matters, but the Beltway chattering class no longer has a monopoly on influencing public opinion,” White House Communications Director Dan Pfeiffer told Nagourney. “On any given day, a blogger, a local reporter or someone on Faceboook or Twitter can be as influential.”
Of course, plenty of bloggers and tweeters respond to columns the “pundits” produce, as well. Even as their influence is subsumed in the social media world, pundits help drive the nation’s commentary agenda.
So, does this mean the “pundits” who write for the New York Times, Washington Post or The Wall Street Journal have they lost their penache? Or are they simply fanning the flames in a different forum?
Many of you treasure your “legitimate” media.
Last week, I asked whether the Huffington Post had joined the growing group of influential media in this country. The reaction in private messages was split, with more traditional-minded consumers of news offering a decided “No!”
Their opinion was based less on HuffPo’s popularity – it attracts 13 million readers a month – and more on the website’s approach to journalism. The website repurposes news that others report, covers current events via the blog posts of volunteers and publishes the posts of journalists on its own staff.
The New York Times magazine recently published a well-done article on Mike Allen of Politico, another popular web-based news source. In the profile, reporter Mark Leibovich is lavish in his praise of Allen’s e-mail “tipsheet” Playbook, which he says “has become the principal early-morning document for an elite set of political and news-media thrivers and strivers.”
Remember, this is a New York Times reporter saying that a newsletter from a website is a “must read” in Washington.
“Allen refers to his readership as ‘the Playbook community,’” Leibovich wrote. “He appeared wounded one morning in March when I suggested to him that his esoteric chronicle may reinforce a conceit that Washington is a closed conclave. No, no, he protested. Playbook is open, intimate. No one even edits it before it goes out, he said, which adds to his ‘human connection’ to ‘the community.’ ”
Today, the New York Times announced that it would begin hosting the popular political blog and news aggregator FiveThirtyEight and make its founder a regular contributor to the paper and its magazine.
The media lines are blurring, blogs and websites are becoming essential sources of news and information. The walls between legitimate and established media are crumbling and coverage is becoming “more intimate.”
So, forget about influential media. As we work to put blurred lines into focus, how have the media changed in the past two years, and is it making coverage “more intimate?”
The Huffington Post recently marked its 5-year anniversary. The online news site and information aggregator now attracts more than 13 million unique visitors a month. That is not a typo. 13 million. More than the Washington Post or USA Today.
Do such numbers qualify “HuffPo” as a member of the powerful media club?
In a recent interview, founder Arianna Huffington described how her site slowly adopted the journalistic attributes commonly expected from her mainstream media counterparts.
“When we launched The Huffington Post, we were worlds apart. There was the legacy media that were very, very skeptical about blogging, or the future of online media. And there were the startups like The Huffington Post. Now The New York Times is doing a lot online. They’re doing a lot of great things online. And we are hiring more and more reporters.”
You know who else is hiring journalists in droves? AOL. The former web portal now employs more than 500 journalists. Not to be left behind, Yahoo is rushing to add to its newsgathering ranks as well. Each site gets millions of hits from a public with a seemingly insatiable appetite for information.
When I recently posted HuffPo’s online viewship on Facebook, a former Northeast Ohio journalist criticized the site for its news aggregation, culling the Web for stories to capture, repurpose and post.
“After all the hours and money we put into putting something original on our website, it’s considered a success when someone else takes it for free and puts it on their website,” said this editor, who works for a national media organization.
My former colleague’s frustration is genuine and understandable. Mainstream media pay their staff to produce the majority of quality journalism in this country. But his point doesn’t address the new dynamic that is emerging. Everyone and anyone can aggregate stories off the web, repackage them and sell the result. That is one of the reasons the universe of media is growing, not shrinking.
Add to the aggregation model the growing number of media utilizing submitted articles from citizen journalists and the nearly limitless supply of bloggers (present company included) and our nation’s total of news sources is in the millions. That is an encouraging, and scary, thought for those who value robust, yet fair and accurate debate of the issues.
“Those of us who recognize that the traditional tenets of journalism — fairness, accuracy, fact checking — need to prevail and be supplemented by all the new technical tools and the new citizen engagement are also going to survive and thrive,” Huffington predicted.
So, should the Huffington Post be counted among the most powerful of media?
Perhaps a better question is, who will be next to join the HuffPo in this once exclusive club?
The spat that erupted between the White House and CBS over a blog post this week has very little to do with politics, and a whole lot to do with how the media use bloggers and other independent contributers to fill out and spice up their Web sites.
In case you missed the recent dust up, Howard Kurtz of the Washington Post provides an excellent summary in this article.
In essence, CBS News posted an online article by blogger Ben Domenech making assertions that Solicitor General Elena Kagan is gay. This was a timely post, as Kagan is said to be a leading candidate to replace retiring Supreme Court Justice John Paul Stevens.
The White House denied the assertion, accused Domenech of shoddy work, including “plagiarism” and asked CBS to pull the blog off the Web site.
Like many media, CBS initially declined. After all, once published, broadcast or posted, it is difficult for media to withdraw coverage. It is the media’s role to be an independent, third party and government watchdog. Withdrawing coverage already in the public domain appears to be giving in to pressure, in this case, exerted by the White House. At the very least, recalling copy involves admitting a pretty large error.
As Kurtz reports, CBS eventually pulled the blog posting after “Domenech said he was merely repeating a rumor.”
Bloggers have become increasingly important to mainstream media. Of course, the unavoidable in that relationship is the media are increasingly dependent on bloggers to provide accurate and fair coverage. Many do. But in this case, CBS seems to have been vulnerable to reporting that did not meet its standards.
Few media will criticize CBS for this one. To varying extents, they all are vulnerable to the same malady.
I met recently with an editor of a national newsmagazine and asked a simple question: If you were to create a new section, how many reporters would you hire?
“Reporters!”, he responded. “I would hire a handful of bloggers, steal from other parts of the magazine, and put out the section online.”
The New York Times announced today that it is partnering with a Web company called FWIX to launch the equivalent of a whole bunch of extremely local special sections on nytimes.com. FWIX uses powerful software to gather links to news and blogs from more than 160 communities in six countries.
Investment for the Times? No telling, but it is safe to say, significantly less than staffing reporters in 160 cities!
Want news from Akron, Ohio, where I live? Go to this link on FWIX, and you can get the latest, some of it straight from my former employer, the Akron Beacon Journal.
So, the latest improvement at the New York Times, perhaps the most prominent international news source in the world, involves using local bloggers and the reporting of local newspapers.
Think for moment about how topsy-turvy that is.
In this article on similar “hyperlocal” efforts, I mentioned Outside.in, which provides hyperlocal content on more than 50,000 neighborhoods based on the work of local bloggers and publishers. Mainstream media understand the potential. Among the Web site’s investors: CNN. Among its customers, Dow Jones, publisher of the Wall Street Journal.
As media analyst Ken Doctor wrote on his blog, “It used to be that 1,500 daily local papers brought their readers the whole world — from city to state to nation to globe, with business, sports, lifestyle and entertainment tossed in. The Times, the Journal and USA Today were the three national reads, supplements to the local dailies, with local single-digit penetration in any metro market.
“Now those roles are getting reversed. The local dailies are increasingly becoming purely local, and the national papers are getting local, adding local print editions, getting hyperlocal, finding ways to serve their readers’ (and advertisers’) needs beyond national/global.”
My colleague, Rob Berick, and I collaborated on an article recently on the importance of social media to a company’s stock price. Members of the National Investor Relations Institute can find the article on the organization’s Web site.
Doctor sums up the changing media world with a touch of frenetic frustration. “It’s a confusing landscape. What’s local? What’s national? What’s digital? What’s print? It’s a patchwork age, and nobody’s got the answers, but as home turfs have shrunken everywhere, everyone’s looking for new lands to conquer.”
It’s also a land of opportunity for an increasingly fractured media world. After all, the growing demand for local news is increasing the opportunity for GOOD bloggers and citizen journalists.
Let’s hope the media find them in big numbers.
Numerous media are trying new approaches to draw in readers, raise circulation and advertising revenue. Bloggers, tweeters and targeted coverage are all part of the mix.
Sometimes it’s the tried and true methods, combined with the best of the new, that work best. The New York Times has gained 1,100 readers in the Bay Area alone, thanks to a special edition and talented news team. The paper only claimed about 40,000 area readers before the new local news effort.
Pumping up coverage is one way media are trying to enhance their dialogue with readers. Here is a recent article I wrote about the fight for local readers and its impact on those they cover. Businesses and organizations seeking to connect with new and current customers are being impacted as well.
One big question in 2010: Can other media create a similar result?
A study out of the University of Missouri compared “legacy media” to citizen journalism sites. Researchers at my alma mater “found that despite ongoing reports of financial troubles and cutbacks, legacy media are more comprehensive and more technologically advanced than citizen media and bloggers.”
They also found that:
* Blogs were less likely than citizen news sites to permit posting comments or emailing the site.
“We found that legacy sites offered almost double the percent of news (89 percent) in comparison with citizen news sites (56 percent) and three times that of blogs (27 percent),” said Margaret Duffy, faculty chair in strategic communication in the Journalism School. “The topic coverage on blogs and citizen new sites is generally narrow and the sourcing is light.”
Interesting that blogs don’t permit posting as often as citizen news sites.
General Motors’ director of news relations recently wrote a blog post accusing the Wall Street Journal of pursuing an agenda while reporting on the automaker’s potential decision to declare bankruptcy. Taking such drastic action would be a milestone in GM’s development, and perhaps one of the last. GM’s Tom Wilkinson, in a blog post titled, “Never Let the Facts Get in the Way of a Good Story,” says the Journal is distorting the facts to create a more compelling story surrounding GM’s financial struggles.
In his well-designed post, Wilkinson provides what he says is an accurate quote from GM CEO Tom Waggoner, and then accuses the Journal of bending the statement to support its story.
“Did The Wall Street Journal ignore what Wagoner really said so it could write the headline and story it wanted?
I’ll leave it to you to decide,” he says.
It’s a reasonable, if somewhat angry post about a newspaper’s coverage. However, the resulting commentary is both supportive and critical of Wilkinson and GM.
“I’m a GM employee and I want to commend Tom for writing this post. Too often we see media coverage that’s taken a turn from the truth. I appreciate the explanation and the information. Thank you.” says Jordana.
“Basically Tom, GM needed to move faster. Ford is five years ahead of GM in terms of dealer/factory streamlining, brand streamlining, asset sales, and capital raising to fund their operations and they did all of that without any taxpayer money because they were smart enough to know their business needed help. GM on the other hand waited until there was no other option than a massive asset sale/reorganization that could cause bankruptcy or a significantly smaller company in the future,” said Alex D.
Props to GM for allowing both positive and negative comments to be posted. A blog can help corporations get their information out, but to have credibility, those blogs have to post the positive and the negative. That’s part of public discourse, even on your own blog.