January 11th, 2007
Being an executive at a traditional media outlet these days must be a little like trying to stay afloat in a flood — menaced by debris, surrounded by chaos, contantly looking for something solid to stand on. Two articles in today’s Post freeze moments in the swirl of change and hint at new opportunities for those of us trying to spread ideas in the public mind.
Frank Ahrens’ piece (“Newspaper-TV Marriage Shows Signs of Strain”) starts with a compelling hook — Belo Broadcasting (home of the Dallas Morning News and a string of newspapers and television stations) is laying off two television reporters and replacing them with videographers who’ll be producing short pieces for the company’s newspaper websites. Local TV stations had been a profit center for newspaper chains, but as Times Company Chairman Arthur Sulzberger Jr indicates, in the new world of journalism, “the future of video [is] in short form and on the Web, as opposed to long form and on television.”
Critically, some news outlets are beginning to follow the lead of YouTube by earning money off of other people’s work — they’re asking readers to submit their own clips to their sites and of course selling ads on the display pages. Free (or nearly free) content! And of course a great opportunity for advocacy campaigns to spread a message…assuming they can figure out how to operate a video camera. (For other thoughts on alternative channels for message-distribution, don’t forget last month’s article on hyper-local media.)
Next, Alan Sipress looks at the presence of bloggers at the Scooter Libby trial, with the Media Bloggers Association negotiating to have two rotating seats reserved for online writers. The lines between traditional journalism and new media are blurring! As we’ve discussed many times here, bloggers are reporters with particularly cheap printing presses. If you ignore them, you’re missing a valuable way to shape the public discussion about your issues. One discouraging note, though — the article points to the results of a Pew study of bloggers that indicates that too many don’t check facts or publish corrections. If we’re going to function as journalists, we’d better start acting with at least some basic journalistic standards. If you’re wrong or even might be wrong, let your readers know! It only helps a writer’s credibility to be honest about mistakes.