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Archive for May, 2011

Thanks to Matthew Ingram of GigaOm for transparency and the work compiling a debate conducted via Twitter about news stories offering links to source material. That news stories should provide links is a given for many, like Matthew, but it’s not a universal view. I think it’s the ideal (as Matthew writes, doing readers a service “by making stories as complete as possible and by providing them with links to further information instead of making them hunt through Google for it” — which also makes sure they don’t find misinformation via Google), but I struggle, given the limitations of the content-management systems I’m familiar with, with the idea of where in the process the links get inserted and by whom, especially if it’s to be the norm for all staff-generated stories. The Web “staff” at most news sites are not enough to handle the volume, and as noted by Patrick LaForge in the Twitter debate, it doesn’t fit neatly into the reporting and writing process. Which is probably how we arrive at the current state of affairs: Stories deemed to be important and of high reader interest get the attention needed to build the Web extras, including links to outside material, but the typical story is linkless. (Another job for the robots?)

5/20/2011 UPDATE: More on this subject, from Publish2.

5/21/2011 UPDATE: I confess I am still catching up on much of the online debate on this topic (more here, with good discussion in comments) and have no idea yet what initially brought this boiling back up as a major topic this week. It seems to me that, while it might be helpful as Scott Karp at Publish2 suggests to adopt technology that favors Web-first publication and easy importing of that work into a print editorial system, and while those such as Doc Searls are correct in saying there remains some (ever declining, in my experience) curmudgeon resistance to the idea of linking out, the larger problem is trying to turn the Titanic. A daily newspaper of any size, especially if it is part of a larger integrated media company, simply has so many moving parts (human, mechanical and technological) that we all might recognize exactly what we wish we could do, but it’s like being in the left lane of the expressway at rush hour when you realize, as your passengers give you instructions on five separate topics, that there’s an exit just ahead that would take you to a much better route home. It’s a direct descendant of the much older issue that used to be the big eternal issue occupying newsrooms, which is balancing the desire for really excellent writing against the need to meet deadline (a saying I always heard goes something like, “Good writing is a fine thing, but we have a newspaper to put out”).

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TBD RIP

Poseidon Adventure
Just a brief note: The last of the management involved in the TBD.com experiment has left the site.

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visualization of the bin Laden death tweets

Brian Solis reflects on the spread of news about Osama bin Laden’s death and, from there, launches into a brief history of media on the Web. (I’m not exaggerating much; the title is “The End of the Destination Web and the Revival of the Information Economy.”) Not only is it chock full of information, it’s chock full of visuals, such as the above, which has nothing to do with the fertilization of a human egg.

You may wonder about some of his statements or observations — probably about where he switches from what has gone before to what is going on now (or needs to be, for media organizations that hope to survive). But it’s a useful read for journalists as a reminder of the wider information world and its continued movement.

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You will know that Skynet has arrived and the ultimate war against the humans is imminent when someone invents a hyperlocalization news tool like that described by Jeff Sonderman in his commentary for Poynter.org about Google News’ new “news near you” service. In summary: Google takes aim at the mobile market by using your mobile device’s geolocation info to feed you more or less hyperlocal news results; Jeff says it’s great as far as it goes, but he wants more — more headlines, more curation, more socialization. His area, metro Washington, D.C., used to have something close to what he wants — it was called TBD.com, and it was killed in its crib a few months ago. Actually, Jeff is looking for the robot version, a “killer app,” and a certain level of personalization — a step beyond hyperlocalization:

“To create a market-dominating filter of local news, someone will need to curate the pool of aggregated news to match each reader’s interests, browsing history and social network activity, in addition to his or her location.

“The killer app would be one that filters a breadth of local aggregation like Outside.in through a hyperpersonalized social filter sought by mobile services such as News.me and Trove combined with the personal browsing and search history of Google.”

And he’s right. If someone can invent a computer program that can do all that, it will be a killer, all right — it might kill the need to have humans involved in the news-delivery process (that would be the group usually called editors or producers) at all.

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(Originally posted on May 13, 2011)
ASNE issued its own version of social media guidelines today, and though much of it is standard stuff, one part has already created some debate: Rule No. 4, “Break news on your website, not on Twitter.” This does NOT mean (as the full guidelines eventually explain) that you should not use Twitter (or Facebook, or Digg, or whatever has proven a good vehicle for you) to publicize breaking news. What it means is that if you have solid, factual reporting of something newsworthy, put it on your website, and WHEN YOU TWEET IT include a link pointing back to your site. In other words, do not put your news only and exclusively into your social media stream. As Media General Digital Media’s Alex Marcelewski explains, social media are a proven way to help drive traffic to your site:

“We have seen that breaking news traffic in significant numbers have come to use from those two networks (Facebook and Twitter), especially at work hours and weekends.

“To rely just on just the website to break news assumes people are actually checking the site throughout the day for breaking news. In the mobile world of today, that is fading.

“Journalists need to break news where the audience is. Yes they should not post non-solid info to anywhere, but when you have a confirmed incident/story and all you have are two sentences, then those two sentence would be posted to web and then to social media with the link back to the site (where the updates occur on the article).”

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(Originally posted on May 12, 2011)
Stats from the news of Osama bin Laden’s death illustrate that an old piece of wisdom favorable to TV news remains true:

“The lesson is clear: when big news breaks, people flock to TV. And when they’re online, they still flock to TV, or else they go to the main sites they think of for providing good fast web-native news. Other news sites, like NYT and WaPo, are lucky just to break into the top ten. They’re very good at what they do. But the broad population still doesn’t think of them as being real-time in the way that TV and the web are.”

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(Originally posted on May 10, 2011)
Initially, the post “The Story So Far by J-Lab’s Jan Schaffer kind of ticked me off. She makes suggestions for news organizations to deal with their permanently diminished resources, and at least a few at first come off as quite glib. Example: “Identify the gaps in news coverage and find ways to fill them.” Oh. THAT’s all. Why didn’t I think of that? Just find a way to fill those gaps.

So just so you know, if you have/had that reaction to her post, I had it too, and I would guess it’s a pretty common one. On further reflection, however, I’m going to knock her instead for her phrasing and approach, not her ideas. The problem with her post is she is already over firmly in the territory of having gotten over the shock of what journalism has lost — staff, beats, travel budgets, the whole enchilada — and she’s writing as someone who has moved on to attempt confront the new reality. Many of us are not there yet, even if we think we are. I must not be, judging by my reaction. I think she was tone deaf to how her phrasing would strike this large segment of journalists. Or maybe she was aware of it but decided not to expend the energy to try to add some psychic cushions in her suggestions.

Put a few of those cushions in place yourself, if need be, and then read her suggestions. The premise of her post is that we will never get back the beats and jobs we have lost so far. Given that, how do her suggestions stack up, in your estimation?

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