Monday, August 3, 2009

Let the specialists do it.

More on the future of journalism from TechCrunch, in response to Michael Arrington's "what if", which involved the top tier reporters and editors from the NYT walking ... and starting their own news org.

In his rejoinder, Paul Carr riffs on a junket to the beach, a god-knows-why juice cleanse, and most specifically, the future of journalism. While he concedes that " life-casting and unpaid blogging most certainly isn’t it," he writes that "the days of the profitable generalist news-gatherer are dying, but the days of solid reporting and a strong, trusted editorial voice must never be allowed to perish."

Carr thinks Arrington's "what if" can't work:
It’s a nice idea, but one that overlooks the fact that a superstar hack takes days - or weeks - of legwork to get to the bottom of a single story. Without content from workaday photographers or wire-feed-re-writers, the New New York Times would be three pages long and published weekly. Good journalism is a slow, labour-intensive business. And what about unglamourous local stories?

He sees the future of journalism in aggregation, in something more like, well, TechCrunch:

Because while TechCrunch might be ‘just’ a blog it’s also, as I’ve discovered in the past few weeks, a hell of a professional journalistic machine. Whatever the cynics might think, it’s a place where sources are built up, facts are checked, lawyers are employed and writers are encouraged to go out and get the real story behind the story. It’s also on something of a hiring spree at the moment - looking out at traditional media and cherry picking those (ahem) who it thinks can bring more value to the brand...

Right across the Internet there are countless other sites that employ the same standards for other niches - from music (Pitchfork) to politics (FiveThirtyEight) to farming (I have no idea) - each of which can afford to dedicate more time to their very specific field of expertise than the New York Times could, even if it doubled its staff.

And so if I were the New York Times, I’d realise that in the face of such solid niche competition, my days as a news-gatherer were over. I’d lay off all of my journalists, shut down the presses ... close the doors and thank God for giving me such a good innings. Then the next day I’d round up maybe 20 or 30 of my best editors and I’d launch a brand new site. A site... which would use those skilled human editors to aggregate the best specialist reporting from around the web into one all-encompassing news source.

His take on blogging, tho somewhat beside the point, is also intriguing:

There’s a horribly pompous misconception amongst bloggers that they are somehow ‘taking on the mainstream media’. “Those old losers just don’t get it!” they cry. “We bloggers are on the scene first, asking tough questions before the mainstream media have even put their shoes on”...

When it comes to a certain type of highly visible breaking news, no-one can argue that social media kicks the mainstream media’s ass. At any given disaster, there’s possibly a 0.01% chance that a professional journalist or photographer will already be on the scene, compared to 100% odds that there’ll be some dude with a camera-phone there. And as for asking tough questions: yep, bloggers are pretty good at that too...

And yet... after camera phone dude helps us establish that the plane has crashed, who can we trust to tell us why it happened? While bloggers can own the first five minutes of any breaking story - a plane crash, a fire, a burglary - it’s always going to be the professional reporters who own the next five days, or five weeks...

Meanwhile, looks like he hated the cleanse. bk

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