Thursday, August 21, 2008

we are our own editors.

People might be changing their patterns of how they get their news, but not necessarily where, writes Tom Rosenstiel, director of the Project for Excellence in Journalism. Commenting on the latest PEW survey on news audiences -- he calls it "the on demand culture" -- he writes:

"This new culture, however, appears to differ from what some technology pioneers imagined. Citizens are not, generally, becoming their own journalists, replacing news professionals. The numbers for that are strikingly limited.

"Instead, already in large numbers, people are becoming their own editors, checking for news throughout the day, hunting through links and aggregators to find what they want, sorting among many sources, while also looking for overviews of what’s new today—and sharing what they find with friends.

"In short, news consumption is shifting from being a passive act—tell me a story—to a proactive one—answer my question."

He notes that people still rely on traditional news outlets -- but in digital form. Those that generate the highest audiences are still the sites connected to "old brands" and also sites that "aggregate" stories from, well, traditional sources.

The plot thickens. Or does it? And where do blogs fit? Is there a spectrum?

BTW, be sure to check out yesterday's comments and keep the conversation going. I am off to the Sun Valley Writer's Conference -- sure to be a humbling experience. Catch you next week. bk


Andrea Ragni said...

This is an interesting post! Your comment on "where blogs fit?" really jumped out at me. I think, in my observations, the line between traditional media and blogs will continue to blur.

Increasingly, I see journalists at the NY Times and WSJ (aka the "creme de la creme"), posting more frequently to their blogs since they are allowed to write with less of a filter and actually explore the topics that interest them. "We are our own editors" should be most journalists mantras at this point.

This is a huge jump forward and as the pool of reporters continues to dwindle, it's going to be important for those journalists that are still alive and kicking to build out their personal brand. Embracing Web 2.0 is something that needs to be done, and slowly but surely might in fact overrun traditional news outlets.

Jack said...

Editors are there for a reason. Even with the best-reported stories and good writing, there still needs to be a backstop, I think. I can't tell you how many times editors have made my story better, even if it was just having a second set of eyes. It can be a pain, but it's life.

Besides, blogs at dailies have editors (even The New York Times). Ours do, just like there are editors for online updates we publish throughout the day. Like other reporters, we use our blogs to publish neat nuggets of information that doesn't quite rise to the level of the next day's paper or a fully drawn-out update.

I can't tell you how often reporters I know complain that they have to do a blog update instead of doing more sourcing for what would be a better story, anyway. The product of "more with less," I suppose.

geewhy said...

I'm with Jack on this one. The "blogs" at mainstream newspapers have serious constraints on content; they have editors; and they really don't have too much personal observation in them. So why are they considered blogs?

If the material in them is so fascinating, why isn't that material in the original story?

I think many blogs function best when an intelligent blogger can riff off mainstream reporting that attempts to be objective. In a real sense, some of the best blogs let real reporters do all the heavy lifting. And I've got no problem with that because I enjoy both forms.

But I'm not sure what we come up with if we try to meld all this together into one new form. I don't want objective reporters talking about their feelings in a blog. And I know many bloggers don't have the time, skills or financial resources to fully report their material.

Katie Redding said...

I think the point of the post is being missed in the post-posting conversation.
Barbara's point is that the way people consume news is changing--whether we journalists like it or not.
I just attended part of an Aspen Institute conference on the information needs of a democracy. Marissa Mayer, Google's vice president of search products and user experience, made a great comparison between music and news.
She talked about how, years ago, the unit of consumption--in music-- changed from the album to the song. The recording industry floundered--then changed with the times, inventing itunes and its variations.
She went on to argue that the same thing is happening in news now. People don't consume newspapers, they consume articles. Newspapers, however, haven't really reacted to that change yet.
An interesting sidenote: she argued that the best source for slightly old news right now is Wikipedia--because it aggregates all former articles, so that you don't have to read 20 articles to understand what's happened since McCain picked Palin, for example.
She wondered if newspapers would ever go that route. It's an interesting question, and gets straight to the heart of the difference between consuming news online and consuming it in a newspaper. And maybe, straight to the heart of how clearly most newspapers are clinging to the "old" ways of presenting news, even when they don't work as well for users.
Here's the link to the article:

barbara kelley said...

good point, katie, and yeah -- you're right. that was the original point of the post.
for me the question is this: when news consumers become their own editors, by choice or necessity, will they actually take the time to do the broadbased searching required to become fully informed, not just on topics that interest them, but on other issues as well? (the old broccoli or oreos debate) and, will they seek out facts or opinion? if the latter, will it be opinions that match their own?
btw, your link didn't come through! bk