Last week a report was released showing the extent to which reporters and traditional journalists felt their field was being impacted by bloggers, citizen journalists and other new media creators.
According to the survey that formed the report, 74 percent of journalists say new media outlets have “very” or “somewhat” effect on the speed of the reporting they do. So we can conclude from that, it seems, that journalists are feeling the eyeballs being trained on them and are speeding up their processes in order to make sure they get the story first.
But only 43 percent (and I say “only” lightly since that’s a pretty good-sized chunk of respondents) say that new media has had similar levels of impact on the quality of news coverage. 56 percent say little to no impact on quality has been felt.
The story ends with the author of the study saying journalists are at the very least turning to blogs for context and new ideas or angles for their own coverage, a topic I opined on before, bemoaning the fact that while they may get ideas and information on blogs, they rarely link out to or otherwise credit the bloggers.
Whatever impact journalists might feel blogs and new media in general is having, the tea leaves are aligning in such a way that it’s impossible to not see the tidal wave rolling around the bend.
(Mixed metaphor skillz: I haz dem)
Consider that political blogger James Pindell is leaving the Boston Globe for ThePoliticker, a new national network of such blogs. At the site a series of state-specific blogs will be brought together to form national coverage of the political arena.
Or that The New York Times of all papers is now openly soliciting for user-submitted photos of polling places during the primaries.
Or that magazine publishers are increasing the number of online features like social networking, games, and videos they roll out each year that not only make the sites more sticky but also allow for some creation of content by the visitor.
Or that this election cycle is featuring an incredible amount of new-media/old-media partnerships as each outlet looks to tap the other’s audience.
In an interview with New York Times “Bits” blogger Saul Hansell, he makes the case that blogging is not so very different from traditional journalism, at least not in the tools themselves. It’s the person wielding the tools and how they’re used that make some blogs – or even individual posts on a blog – what they are. Hansell acknowledges that the journalism world has changed to some extent because of the ubiquity of online publishing tools but that the worth of the outlet is determined more by the content than it is by the platform that content is published through.
Former Newsweek CEO Rick Smith, on the other hand, isn’t thrilled with how so many people with such easy access to publishing tools has devalued the news his magazine and others traffic in. Smith says that so much of the media people are now consuming is made up of opinion and not facts that the reporting is losing importance to readers – and the advertisers who want to be attached to breaking news.
I find more agreement with Hansell’s comments then I do with anything else. It’s always the content and the intent of the writer that trumps everything else. If someone puts out good stuff – be it audio, video or text – it will gain an audience and be taken seriously. If the content they’re producing is found to provide better context, be more relevant or in some other way more deeply and meaningfully connect with the audience then it will win the battle for eyeballs.
Instead of complaining over the injustice of consumer-generated content taking readers away from the reporting an established outlet does, it would be better for those editors to look at what they might not be providing to the audience and seek to address that shortcoming. Change. Adapt. Improve.
But still let your readers and other experts participate in the conversation. Allow comments on story and look to see who’s linking to you. Despite all the resources a newspaper or magazine might have (at least those resources that have survived the most recent round of budget cuts) there’s still going to be someone out there with a different take on any given story. They might live in the neighborhood you’re covering and know what their Alderman has just said on an issue. They might work in the industry and know that X was a direct result of W.
Traditional media no longer exists in a vacuum. They have to compete harder than ever for readers and advertisers. But there’s too much “Well we’re better” being proclaimed and not enough “Well we’re better” being practiced. The determination of your quality – whether it be media, consumer-packaged goods or anything else – comes from the number of people who shell out their money for what it is you’re producing.
(Afterward: I had this all written when I saw this pop-up – “How to get a job in journalism.” Lots of good stuff in there for the aspirational.)