Solve this problem, fix journalism

24 Mar

Offered with no comment, and minimal context: The writer, Eileen Spiegler, is a longtime colleague, and a gifted copy editor.

From her online musings on a random Wednesday:

“Sometimes I wish the newspaper was as interesting as my Twitter stream.”

Discuss, please.

9 Responses to “Solve this problem, fix journalism”

  1. Mary H. March 24, 2010 at 11:57 pm #

    Two big reasons I agree, per Twitter:

    1. The people in my Twitter stream are selected and curated — actively — by me. Part of why I follow who I follow is because what they say and link to is interesting to me.

    2. I can jump into any conversation, comment back, and carry on threads.

    And why those don’t apply to the newspaper, or a newspaper Web site:

    1. The newspaper front page, inside pages, section covers, and entire Web site are curated by people I don’t know. They choose what they want, not what I want.

    2. I can comment sometimes on newspaper Web sites, but odds are I’m jumping into a shitstorm of spam/racism/conservatism/crap that I don’t want to discuss. The barrier to entry to commenting may also be high — registration, captcha, etc. And I may never hear back from the original writer (reporter, blogger, edtior).

  2. Eileen March 25, 2010 at 9:48 am #

    Yes, I agree w/what Mary said. And note I said “sometimes.” To paraphrase Heraclitus, you can’t step into the same stream twice — an equal number of times it’s completely inane.

    I scoffed a while back when Wired editor Chris Anderson said he got all the news he needed from social media, but I swear I now think it might be true. You can tailor your social media to make it so. As a longtime journalist, this doesn’t exactly make me happy, even though getting great info from lots of new sources does.

    The “sometimes” is also an acknowledgement that twitter is one thing and newspapers another. Here’s the thing: Twitter posters often seem to fully embrace their medium and their content, while the purveyors of MSM seem uncertain, to say the least. Social media experimentation is about discovery, while the MSM’s is more about desperation at this point. How the dilemma will be resolved seems to still be a lot of wishful thinking.

  3. tgd March 25, 2010 at 10:08 am #

    What fascinates me about Eileen’s original comment, and Mary’s fine addition, is it gets at the notion of personalization. One of many frustrations with traditional organizations is their slowness to grasp it. Good God, the “Daily Me” concept and the legendary Fishwrap project came out of the MIT Media Lab 16 years ago. Yes, the technology didn’t really work then, and didn’t really work 10 years ago. But – thanks, Mr. Moore! – it works just fine now. (Pandora, anyone? Last.fm?)

    OK, for the type of entrepreneurial journalist this blog hopes to reach, a major development effort to develop true personalization isn’t practical. But (I’ll say it before Mary does) social media can do it for you. Engage the audience in theirTwitterstream; let them do the work for you via curation.

  4. Tim Windsor March 25, 2010 at 10:32 am #

    Tom,

    Where Twitter and Facebook (and, for power users, feed readers and Delicious and flickr and, well, just about anything on the social web) have it all over newspapers and other forms of top-down media is that for the traditional media, “personalization” is a feature, stapled onto the usual way of presenting information. This feature requires curation on the user’s part to make it in any way useful (“Select the topics you’d like to see.”) and most people aren’t willing to make the effort.

    Meanwhile, social media is personalization. With every friend you add to Facebook, every person you follow in Twitter, you’re creating a massively-multiplayer trusted filter that, like magic, serves up information that you’re already interested in.

  5. SB Anderson March 25, 2010 at 10:41 am #

    In my newspaper this morning, a traditional winded “Another Era Passes” paen (newspapers are just plain obsessed with them) about the end of the syndicated TV show “At The Movies,” originally by Siskel & Ebert (and watched by practically no one in quite some time). http://bit.ly/cUHx0A

    In my Twitter stream this morning, a tweet from Roger Ebert (@ebertcicago), who has masterfully embraced fresh platforms and technology, revealing where he is taking the franchise: ” ‘At the Movies’ is dead. Long live ‘At the Movies!’ My new blog entry, just posted. http://j.mp/91t3hJ

    Imagine if newspapers paid more than passive aggressive lip service to the digital world for the past 15 years and honestly and earnestly built strategies around Ebert’s philosophy: “The disintegration of the old model creates an opening for us. I’m more excited than I would be if we were trying to do the same old same old.”

    Newspapers are backwards looking. Twitter is all about tomorrow.

  6. Tim Windsor March 25, 2010 at 11:04 am #

    And, Scott, Ebert has figured out paid, creating his $4.99 a year Ebert Club (hurry – the price goes up to $5.00 on April 1!), much to the disdain of his newspaper colleagues who howled that he could have made a lot more. (This, from the folks who have been wringing their hands over finding something – anything – to sell online for years.)

  7. Mary H. March 29, 2010 at 2:29 am #

    Oh, right: I should have pointed out that I’m a former journo, one who often “curated” the front page for readers. :) (I know Tom knows, but not everyone else who commented. Hi!)

    Tim’s point about curation being a feature on newspaper Web sites vs. being inherently built into social media is a really good one.

    And finally, I love this phrase because it’s so, so true, and I read it in nearly every technology story I read written by a paper (or wire service) “passive aggressive lip service to the digital world.” (For TV stations, it’s less aggression and more a state of stupefied wonder.)

  8. Amy April 23, 2010 at 10:46 am #

    Tom,

    Where Twitter and Facebook (and, for power users, feed readers and Delicious and flickr and, well, just about anything on the social web) have it all over newspapers and other forms of top-down media is that for the traditional media, “personalization” is a feature, stapled onto the usual way of presenting information. This feature requires curation on the user’s part to make it in any way useful (“Select the topics you’d like to see.”) and most people aren’t willing to make the effort.

    Meanwhile, social media is personalization. With every friend you add to Facebook, every person you follow in Twitter, you’re creating a massively-multiplayer trusted filter that, like magic, serves up information that you’re already interested in.

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