Be local, be unique, but don’t listen to John Dvorak

I’m seeing lots of links around the blogosphere to John Dvorak’s column on the state of newspapers.

The column is full of sweeping statements, generalizations and contradictions.

For example, he complains that a search in Google for any hot topic uncovers a bounty of stories that are all the same. Of course, Mr. I’m-Going-to-Lecture-You-on-the-Web fails to provide a link to support his assertion.

If he had, you might have found coverage like this. Follow that link and you’ll find thousands of stories on the same topic, but over the first two screen fulls, you’ll find mostly stories from different writers at different news organizations, and not all from newspapers.

That might be a good thing.

It doesn’t necessarily help newspapers, but if you’re a news junkie, that’s pretty cool. But it also doesn’t support Mr. Dvorak’s claim that they’re all the same AP story.

On the other hand, he thinks newspapers have made a mistake by eliminating foreign reporting jobs. He complains that there are too few reporters these days at the scene of big, breaking stories.

Here’s the contradiction: Either we have bloated news organizations with too many people chasing the same story, or we don’t. Mr. Dvorak seems to want it both ways — don’t carry the coverage everybody else has, but be sure you’re swimming in right school of fish.

In Ventura in 2004, we started a trend by depreciating AP content, so I agree that commodity news is bad for the average newspaper.com, but the fact is, I see damn few newspaper sites trying to limp along on wire content instead of pushing unique, locally produced, original content. Mr. Dvorak states otherwise, but provides no evidence. Me, I’ll direct you to MPNNow.com, Knoxnews.com, SFGate.com … just to pick three, and there are hundreds more.

The fact is, most newspapers still have robust local staffs covering their core markets.

I doubt Mr. Dvorak looked at a single local newspaper site before blasting out his link-baiting column.

That said, he did get one thing right — too many news sites are still, still, relying on just one or two daily updates rather than publishing a continuing flow of news updates (Mr. Dvorak calls it breaking news, but if you’re doing this right — there is nothing breaking about it; it’s just what you do).

One paragraph right out of 16. That’s not a good average.

There’s no doubt our industry faces many challenges, but listening to the kind of tripe Mr. Dvorak is offering up won’t help us solve them.

One thought on “Be local, be unique, but don’t listen to John Dvorak

  1. Who listens to Dvorak anyway? He’s admitted previously that he’s often engaged in baiting people for “shock value.” I’m ignoring his column as usual. I suggest others do the same.

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