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Keep today's front page someplace safe and dry. Go to the nearby supermarket, drug store or newstand/newspaper box and buy extra copies. Newspapers around the country tore up their front pages on severe deadline last night and captured a point in time you will want to remember in the years to come. Here are a some of the resulting front pages, some from around the world. Here is some more.
Say what you want about newspapers' struggle, but they do one thing better than any other medium: They capture history, one sliver at a time.
Yes, you can get fantastic coverage of Osama bin Laden's death at a variety of news web sites. But can you easily preserve the news in images you can show your children, your grandchildren?
Yes, Twitter broke the news of bin Laden's death, even the attack on his compound, before mainstream media, but does a single tweet, even a series of tweets, capture the scope of an event?
In our basement, my children will one day find front pages from 9/11, the Iraq war, the election of our nation's first black president, and more. (I must admit that they also will need to sift through some more mundane articles, although I was proud of them when I wrote them!)
So sure, newspapers are struggling to remain relevant. But today, as you review front pages from across the country and around the world, that struggle seems slightly reduced.
In their efforts to become more relevant, vibrant and profitable, media are diverging, with larger newspaper companies investing to accommodate high-profile leaks, and smaller news organizations fighting to reinvent themselves at a community level.
Consider two recent news items recently. One relates to innovations major media are rushing to enact to accommodate WikiLeak-like leaks of massive amounts of data.
The second comes in the form of a memo from new Philadelphia Daily News editor Larry Platt, whose job is to lead a proud and struggling newspaper that operates as its city’s second source of news, behind the Philadelphia Inquirer.
In an article for Yahoo! News, Michael Calderone writes about the effort on the part of the mega news media organizations to bring online new technology systems designed to handle the largest dumps of information you could imagine. These systems will be designed to handle massive leaks with the ease of a plug-in flash drive. Al Jazeera calls this system its “Transparency Unit,” Calderone wrote. New York Times editor Bill Keller acknowledged in the same article that his paper is pursuing a similar system. Other news organizations around the world are not likely to be left behind.
"It would be surprising if other large news organizations are not already at work on their own encrypted WikiLeaks-style portals," according to Raffi Khatchadourian, who has covered WikiLeaks for New Yorker. "The New York Times and Guardian, for instance, have every incentive to follow in Al Jazeera's footsteps and give people a way to submit sensitive material directly to them rather than through an intermediary, such as WikiLeaks."
Compare this to Platt’s missive, where he tries to re-energize and refocus his staff. He too speaks of innovation, but his is at the grass-roots, gut level of his newspaper. His vision is for the newspaper to become the “Town Square” of Philly.
“The times demand that, together, we reinvent ourselves,” he wrote. “We’re going to be a laboratory of innovation and experimentation.”
“I find it liberating that we’re not Philadelphia’s paper of record. If you don’t have to cover everything, you can actually cover anything. You can let your passion guide you. In other words, we are free to focus on giving our readers what they can’t get anywhere else, which is a service to them — while setting us apart from the pack.”
We are “no longer in the newspaper business; we are, instead, in the Town Square business,” he wrote. “We provide the last bastion of community in an ever-fractured world, and we touch the members of our community in myriad ways: via print, the web, apps, events, and other media outlets. What we do – what you do — is vital.”
WikiLeaks-like data leaks and the massive amounts of information they encompass are likely to become more common, but only the largest of media will be able to accommodate them.
A significant portion of the media are going the Town Square route.
The reporter was so angry with me as I was editing his story, his voice was shaking. “You want me to reference another newspaper in my story? You want me to tell readers about our competitor’s coverage? Is this just because I didn’t break the story myself? Do you think other media would do this?”
At the time, interacting with readers by citing other sources of information was a foreign concept to many. Today, the conversation would go far differently. Engagement is a journalism buzzword, illustrating depth, breadth and personal investment.
AOL’s Patch.com is in the process of launching a series of “hyperlocal” news sites in my back yard of Northeast Ohio. The purpose of these and other extremely local news sites being created around the country is to “engage the audience and connect that audience to advertisers,” Patch president Warren Webster recently said in an interview with Crain’s Cleveland Business.
In a New York Times story this week, Peter Applebome writes about The Register Citizen in the economically challenged town of Torrington, Conn. The paper is trying innovative ways such as opening up the newsroom to the public to connect with residents and encourage interaction with readers.
“The business plan is based on making The Register Citizen’s website a magnet for all things local and thus an attractive place for advertisers, sponsors and others who can replace declining newspaper subscribers and advertisers.”
“The same thought underlies the public meetings and open newsroom, the opening of the company’s archives, the public spaces for bloggers and the meeting room that will host courses on blogging and journalism, so residents can write and link to the site.”
Perhaps no other media has received as much attention for its engagement efforts as TV-Website TBD.com in the Washington, D.C., area, which launched this year with the goal of producing local journalism unlike any other organization. TBD is supported by a “community engagement team.”
In this article in Neiman Reports, team members describe how they review the website’s 200 community bloggers and then look to provide readers with fresh, engaging content.
“My challenge is to capture and funnel information from blogs, websites, legacy media (yes, even from our competitors) that will enhance our community’s experience,” team member Jeff Sonderman told Nieman.
Of course, all these efforts may fail, engagement may go the way of the pet rock (yes, I am dating myself) but don't bet on it. I’m looking forward to the growth of the Patch.com site that covers my neighborhood. Heck, I might even engage with the site.
I wonder what my reporter would say to that?
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?”
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.
The next time you think newsgathering is doomed, consider AOL and the New York Times. They both employ an arsenal of journalists and are expanding their coverage of hyperlocal news.
AOL now employs 500 journalists. In fact, the company once known for digital access and canned content hired 150 journalists last year, when nearly every other newsgathering organization was trimming jobs.
This expansion may not be the most significant for AOL. Business Insider recently reported that AOL plans to expand its network of hyperlocal news blogs, Patch, from 30 sites to hundreds by the end of the year.
(I wrote about the expansion of Patch and other hyperlocal coverage in this article.)
Meanwhile, The Local, the Times’ hyperlocal project started last year, is expanding from five sites in New York and New Jersey into the East Village of New York City. The project will be run by New York University’s journalism faculty and students through its Arthur L. Carter Journalism Institute, according to David Kaplan of PaidContent.org.
“The collaboration is similar to the one the Times has with the citizen journalism initiative at The City University of New York. CUNY has been involved with The Local since its inception and it was recently handed oversight for two Brooklyn sites. The East Village outpost is expected to launch in the fall,” Kaplan wrote.
So, if you are not yet convinced that hyperlocal coverage is one of most significant themes in the journalism world this year, just think of AOL and the Times. Oh, and think of CNN, the Chicago Tribune, the Miami Herald…….
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I’ve got one word for you: “hyperlocal.”
OK. So that’s a cheap ripoff of the famous line from “The Graduate” but the promise of hyperlocal may soon equal that of the “plastics” industry urged to be Dustin Hoffman’s future.
Recently, I detailed in this article how the media’s rush to increase its local connections would impact communities, accelerate the pace of news and greatly impact how business and thought leaders effectively communicate with a variety of audiences.
Now, Steve Safran of LostRemote, a blogger who covers the local media space, reports that the New York Post, St. Louis Post-Dispatch, Miami Herald, The Tribune Co. and Dow Jones Local are forming relationships with Outside.in, the aggregator and distributor of hyperlocal information that depends on bloggers and other local sources for its extremely local news.
One newspaper editor commented to me that the race for hyperlocal content is “nearly manic” as is the search for a way to make money providing it to readers. A journalism professor commented on the ethical and accuracy concerns associated with allowing bloggers and citizen journalists to provide so much content.
It will be fascinating to watch how the media—and the businesses that use them for communications—figure this out.