Avoid the labels, host the conversation

Tish Grier says some nice things about me, but that’s not why I’m linking to her post. She makes some good points about not forcing the “journalist” label on independent content producers who are clearly uncomfortable being put into that category.

By tussling over who’s a journalist and who isn’t, both Newspapers and the Rabble get distracted and pulled into a useless argument that ends only in “I know what you are but what am I?”

Though I’m not sure if I totally agree with the second half of that same graph.

Newspapers should view the new media landscape like bloggers–choose who you want to link to, but don’t insist they write the blogs *for* you. That’s utter nonsense and to echo Owens’ assessment, doomed to fail.

I see nothing wrong with a newspaper web site creating a blogging platform for the local community and allowing users to create and manage their own blogs. That’s not “insisting” users create content for you. It’s providing another tool for conversation. However, the other vital tool of conversation is not ignoring bloggers who are not on your platform. Newspaper sites need to surface the conversation of all bloggers relevant to the location, the story or the issue, no matter where the link leads.

Relevant to another of Tish’s points: I probably shouldn’t comment on Triblocal, since the product is a direct competitor with my company’s web sites, but I will say, their model is not what I would do.

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5 thoughts on “Avoid the labels, host the conversation

  1. Hi Howard,

    you bring up a good point. A couple of questions though–if the newspapers provide the platforms (say, something like Blogger or like a drupal community site) would the people be blogging *for* the paper? and then, perhaps, paid by the paper? Should bloggers of any stripe who are blogging at a paper’s site be edited, and if edited then paid for their content? would it be ethical, then for the paper’s reporters to use leads or other information from those blogs? If so, should the blogger then get credit or at least an email acknowledgement from the reporter?

    If papers provide the platform, I’d suggest there be some guidelines–dos and don’ts–since moderating blogs as if they were message boards isn’t all that practical. But simple guidelines can keep a newspaper’s blogging platform from devloving into a place where press releases and trols continue their reigns of terror.

    and you’re right about aggergating all the conversations. That’s probably better for a hub than being selective. (although I was told that my personal blog wouldn’t be linked–hence the birth of Constant Observer. there are some interesting gender issues in who’s linked to CO and who’s linked to my personal blog, but I won’t delve into those…another conversation for another time.)

  2. First, go to the People tab of Bakersfield.com.

    Second, I think a lot of the questions you raise are over thinking the issue. Just do it and let it evolve.

    Clearly, there are Terms of Service to abide, but otherwise, let it evolve.

  3. The questions I’ve raised come from some observations on other newspaper cit j. ventures. Would rather not elaborate in a comment, though–but there are reasons for those question :-)

  4. oh, and took a look at Bakersfield.com. Good model. Like that you differentiate the staff blogs from the non-staff. I believe it is important for people to know who’s staff and who isn’t–as this can also free up staff to use their blogs to enhance their articles (as is done at Boston.com) Keeping staff differentiated from the general rabble ;-) clarifies any transparency issues.

  5. It would be more accurate to say “they differentiate …”

    But it is pretty close to the right model.

    I would handle staff blogs a little differently.

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