Nov 18, 2008

Just like starting over

Today's New York Times profiles the and a few other start-up news websites. Are we seeing the rough draft of what will become the news industry of tomorrow?

I've always thought the idea that the World Wide Web would provide some evolutionary jump in what constitutes news coverage was silly and self-defeating - an excuse for bad managers to rationalize bad management and a platform for futurists and hucksters to sell their remedies.

If someone does come along with something better, we should all embrace it. Until then, news providers have to carry on - standards intact. And it looks like the way forward might be simpler than we had first considered - start small and grow up. That's one way to defeat the plague of the downward trend line.

I'm not saying newspapers should shut down the presses. These web-based news companies will need to incubate for a while, jostle for audiences and ad dollars, compete for coverage and mature in structure. They are not rescue boats nor are they replacements for what exists. They are allies, however.

From the NYT:
As America’s newspapers shrink and shed staff, and broadcast news outlets sink in the ratings, a new kind of Web-based news operation has arisen in several cities, forcing the papers to follow the stories they uncover.

Here it is, offering a brand of serious, original reporting by professional journalists — the province of the traditional media, but at a much lower cost of doing business. Since it began in 2005, similar operations have cropped up in New Haven, the Twin Cities, Seattle, St. Louis and Chicago. More are on the way.

Their news coverage and hard-digging investigative reporting stand out in an Internet landscape long dominated by partisan commentary, gossip, vitriol and citizen journalism posted by unpaid amateurs.

The fledgling movement has reached a sufficient critical mass, its founders think, so they plan to form an association, angling for national advertising and foundation grants that they could not compete for singly. And hardly a week goes by without a call from journalists around the country seeking advice about starting their own online news outlets.


pasadenapio said...

There has to be room for everybody in this changing world. The challenge will be which sites fact-check and which don't. I wish everybody was savvy enough to know the difference but sadly they're not.

Anonymous said...

The one thing I lament about the media's head-first dive into online, and to what pasadenapio said, is that it will be how the market responds to the prevailing herd.

The only people who care about fact-checking are the journalists. The readers certainly don't.

Ultimately, the market -- as in, the hucksters -- rewards those who can lure in the biggest audience.

There's a theorem in economics called Gresham's Law. In its strictest sense it refers to coinage, but it can be also extrapolated to "The Bad Drives Out The Good."

The eyeball wranglers will not make it possible for the online journalists to gain a foothold.