Today’s Post has an interesting look at Gannett’s new emphasis on the web, with local newspapers attempting to drive traffic to their websites by focusing on very local stories. The article discusses a new style of reporter, the mobile journalist (or “mojo” very clever), whose office is a car and who travels with a laptop and digital still and video cameras. Mobile journalists are encouraged to file stories constantly and on the fly, often covering events that would have been buried in a print paper or ignored entirely.
This strategy runs counter to the trend of recent cutbacks in newsroom staffs, since it does require that media outlets put reporters on the ground, but it may spread if it turns out to be effective in driving traffic to media websites and generating enough advertising revenue to offset declines in print circulation. If so, it opens up new opportunities for electoral and issue campaigns to get publicity for events, since “mojos” (a word I can’t even write with a straight face) will be hungry for stories (see also yesterday’s story on local bloggers). As my NET colleague Kymberly Escober pointed out this morning, the trend toward local online journalism could favor stories with a visual component (animations, video, compelling/scenic backdrops for public appearances), since media outlets will probably be eager to spice up their text with images and multimedia.
The article made me remember a Larry Niven short story I read in a collection years ago (I know you’ll be shocked to find out that I grew up reading science fiction). Called “All the Bridges Rusting,” it centered around a character whose job was to be a “newstaper” he travelled with a video camera on his shoulder and produced and published television news stories in something very close to real time. Sound familiar? Just replace the word “television” with “online” and you have the new world of mobile journalism. Niven also invented the concept of a “flash crowd” in a series of stories about teleportation remember the flash mob blip in pop culture a few years ago? Now you see why science fiction writers get ALL the chicks.