Sunday, October 11, 2009

Well if everybody is a journalist, who's the reader?

Take Sides: do you agree with Jay Rosen's definition of "the people formerly knows as the audience."

Jay Rosen: The People Formerly known as the Audience

Yes, I completely agree with Rosen that high technology has changed EVERYTHING concerning news production and news consumption, where the word "instant" applies almost equally to both sides of that equation.

But still, there are a lot of people out there who want (and will pay for) a packaged, professional product covering a wide variety of news, politics, sports, entertainment, weather, lottery numbers, etc. Even if that newspaper does go to bed at 10:00 PM the night before.

Rather than a blogger vs. mainstream media pissing contest, everybody wins--especially the general public--if the the two camps merge into a hybrid that taps the fantastic features of the Internet with the tried-and-true methods of traditional journalism.

Simply allowing comments on a news web cite allows for greater participation from readers; and perhaps some of them have inside information valuable to the story. Even better if the newspaper shares some of their bandwidth and exposure by hosting and promoting outside independent blogs.

They can still keep things at an arms length and protect themselves legally by using a disclaimer to readers that the blog is a separate entity. That way they could use the blog as sort of a canary in the coal mine to ascertain if a story is worth pursuing in greater detail.

Newspapers have always solicited feedback from readers via Letters to the Editor and Guest Columns for almost as long as they have been in existence. Only now those letters or columns can appear INSTANTLY as opposed to the days or weeks it required back in the good old days they they were properly vetted--albeit slowly.

When I was writing a professional column for my little hometown paper--The Amherst Bulletin--my goal was for half the readers to hate it and the other half to love it.

Howie Carr at the Boston Herald has said pretty much the same thing when he observes that half his readership loves how he skewers public officials and the other half are those public officials checking in to see if he is skewering them.

My stingy editor wanted me to keep it to 750 words--and since the issue and not the money was my motivation I would usually end up with a first draft closer to 1,000. Retired Journalism icon Howard Ziff told me his goal was 600.

So I would reread my final draft 100 time and every time try to edit out something.

These days I publish to my blog six days per week, although I try to keep it shorter than 750 words. And before I hit the "publish" button I reread the final edit only 10 times rather than 100.

But I can still go back anytime and instantly change anything 90 more times over the next hours, days or weeks.

And of course my daily numbers even multiplied over the month probably still do not equal the audience I had as a monthly newspaper columnist. But my theory is the folks who come to my blog daily really want to read what I have to say (even if hoping I make a mistake they can use to embarrass me.)

Thus they are committed readers/consumers rather than passive newspaper readers who usually only lazily scan the headlines (and Columnist don’t get to write their headlines) maybe the lead paragraph and if both are really compelling the rest of the article.

Quality vs. quantity.


ChipSeal said...

Oh yeah, the professionals have their stories vetted. Um sure.

On the whole, professional journalism is slanderous inaccurate agenda-driven dreck.

Bloggers earn the respect they get from their audience.

Anonymous said...

No offense but:

What makes this blog required reading is that you're quite a ways out ahead of the newspapers in alerting us to stories.

What you have to say on any topic is far less important to me than what you've decided to write about, which, like it or not, is usually interesting. You are the canary in the coal mine, the "head's up" guy, in Amherst.

Rich Morse

Anonymous said...

If you want to know which flags are up when they shouldn't be or down when they shouldn't be, then this indeed is the place to go for news. It's also useful for information on parades.

LarryK4 said...

Seems to keep you coming back.