Will blogs replace newspapers? If they do, it’ll be with a technie agenda, according to the New Media Index from the Pew Research Center’s Project for Excellence in Journalism.

Pew gathered a year’s worth of data on the top stories discussed and linked to on blogs and seven months’ worth of comparable data from Twitter. The findings: The news that people discuss in social networks is a lot different from what the mainstream media discusses. Also, the type of media makes a different. Topics that are talked up on Twitter aren’t the same as those that get chatted about on YouTube.

Twitter is the techiest of the platforms. During the period measured, an astonishing 43% of news topics on Twitter related to technology, compared to just 1% in traditional media. On the flip side, mainstream media spilled 10% of its ink on the economy, compared to 1% in the Twittersphere.

Bloggers most closely matched mainstream media in the topics they discussed, but even they have a techie orientation. During the week of May 24-28, when most of America was riveted on the oil spill that threatened the entire Gulf Coast, bloggers talked mainly about Facebook privacy. Meanwhile, on Twitter the talk was all about Apple surpassing Microsoft in size.

The research draws some interesting contrasts in the styles that dominate these social media. In the year studied, “bloggers gravitated toward stories that elicited emotion, concerned individual or group rights or triggered ideological passion,” researchers said. On Twitter, in contrast, “The mission is primarily about passing along important — often breaking — information in a way that unifies or assumes shared values within the Twitter community.” There’s a narcissistic fascination with Twitter itself in much of this news. Still, Twitter was the only medium of the four studied that devoted significant attention to the Iranian election protests.

News Topics Discussed by Platform

Pew also remarks on the attention-deficit style of consumption that dominates the Internet. Stories quickly pass from prominence into obscurity. “On blogs, 53% of the lead stories in a given week stay on the list no more than three days. On Twitter that is true of 72% of lead stories, and more than half (52%) are on the list for just 24 hours.”

Blogs shared the same lead story with traditional media in just 13 of the 49 weeks studied. On Twitter, it was just four of 29 weeks studied; just 5% of the top five stories on Twitter remained among the top stories the following week;More than 99% of the stories linked to in blogs came from legacy outlets such as newspapers and broadcast networks. On Twitter, the ratio was considerably different, with only half of the links going to legacy outlets;YouTube is the most international of the four platforms studied. One quarter of the most-watched news videos on YouTube were of non-U.S. events.

A few other striking findings:

  • Blogs shared the same lead story with traditional media in just 13 of the 49 weeks studied. On Twitter, it was just four of 29 weeks studied;
  • Just 5% of the top five stories on Twitter remained among the top stories the following week;
  • More than 99% of the stories linked to in blogs came from legacy outlets such as newspapers and broadcast networks. On Twitter, the ratio was considerably different, with only half of the links going to legacy outlets;
  • YouTube is the most international of the four platforms studied. One quarter of the most-watched news videos on YouTube were of non-U.S. events.

What can we learn from this? For one thing, it appears that, when left to their own devices, long form social media practitioners gravitate toward a mainstream media model. The profile of blog content is remarkably similar to that of traditional media. This is probably a matter of the blogosphere reflecting its sources of information rather than the other way around, because, the survey also found that mainstream media reflect very little of what starts in the blogosphere. It does indicate that the topics covered by mainstream media match pretty closely the interests of people who care enough to compose thoughtful commentary about the news of the day.

It’s also clear that bloggers need mainstream media, although maybe not as much as media professionals would like to believe. The research found that 80% percent of the mainstream media citations from bloggers went to just four outlets: the BBC, CNN, The New York Times and the Washington Post.

Twitter and YouTube are not cast in the same mold as blogs. Those outlets reflect a specific set of interests, most notably the digirati who use Twitter. It’s also interesting that the research found such a small percentage of content devoted to technology on YouTube, but that may be due to the nature of the medium. Most computer stuff isn’t very visual.

There’s nothing in these results to indicate that blogs are going to replace mainstream news anytime soon. “Bloggers gravitated towards stories that elicited emotion, concerned individual or group rights or triggered ideological passion,” the survey authors wrote. In other words, blogs are commentary, not news.

Miscellany

Yahoo is continuing its slow crawl into the world occupied by news outlets. In the past year, the company has hired several editors to staff a fledgling news bureau and acquired Associated Content. Now TechCrunch says Yahoo wants Huffington Post. The two are in a content syndication deal and Yahoo may even try to acquire HuffPo, although the price is probably prohibitive.

Huffington Post is now the biggest blog on the planet, TechCrunch says, with more traffic than NYTimes.com. It’s on track to generate $100 million in revenue next year, making it a pricey acquisition for the struggling Yahoo. Meanwhile, Google continues to insist that it’s not interested in getting into the original content game, indicating that Yahoo may be the bigger threat to traditional publishers.


Richard Sambrook, former head of BBC NewsLaid-off journalists are increasingly finding new careers in the public relations industry, according to an article in the UK’s Independent. But the new trend is to hire journalists for their journalism skills rather than their contacts in the industry. Edelman, the global PR firm, recently hired Richard Sambrook, the former head of BBC News, and gave him the title of Chief Content Officer. It also just hired business journalist  Stefan Stern from the Financial Times as the new head of strategy.

The article quotes Sambrook as saying that Edelman realizes its clients can now take their message directly to the consumer. “”The walls of the traditional box of PR are falling away and Edelman is taking the opportunity to move into new territory,” he said. “We are at a moment when a lot of the traditional lines between PR and consulting and advertising and broadcasting are blurring.”

This trend may make a lot of traditionalists cringe, but it’s clearly gathering momentum. In recent weeks we’ve talked to several business bloggers who are refugees from flailing media operations. The question is whether businesses have the guts to let these journalists do what they do best or if they will try to box them into the traditional role of corporate shill. It’s unlikely that people like Sambrook will tolerate the latter approach, which is why his hiring has considerable symbolic importance.


You know times are tough when you’re rejoicing over the slowing of a decline. Newspaper advertising revenue declined to $5.98 billion in the first quarter, a drop of 9.7%. The good news: that’s the smallest drop since the third quarter of 2007. Print revenue was down over 11% and classifieds were off 14%. Online revenue, though, was up nearly 5%. “Declines are moderating across the board and, in some instances, have turned positive,” NAA President-CEO John Sturm said in a statement.

Animated_Christmas_TreeThe Guardian’s Dan Kennedy has an intelligent piece about why the great newspaper collapse of 2009 didn’t pan out as expected. If you remember, early this year there were dramatic closures in major markets like Denver and Seattle, along with threats of similar harsh medicine in San Francisco and Boston. But as 2009 comes to a close, the San Francisco Chronicle and the Boston Globe are still alive and kicking and there have been no major newspaper shutdowns in nine months. Kennedy points out that publishers took strong action to reverse the tide after that scary first quarter, cutting back sharply on expenses, boosting subscription prices and finding novel new ways to generate revenue. They also had considerable success whittling down the debt that has paralyzed many of their operations

Most daily newspapers, in fact, operate in the black but massive debt accumulated during multiple rounds of consolidation earlier this decade were threatening their existence. The threat is still there, but it looks like there was more fat in newspaper operating budgets than many observers had believed. Washington Post publisher Katharine Weymouth has pointed out that her paper employs twice as many journalists as it did during the Watergate years, even after multiple rounds of cutbacks.

Time to celebrate? Hardly. This industry is not a growth story and probably never will be, but it does appear that publishers are finding ways to gracefully manage their print operations down to sustainable levels. Early experience indicates that online news publishers can the profitable at about 20% of the expense level of their print counterparts. It’s likely that some publishers will figure out ways to get there without shutting down the brand entirely. Of course the price of advertising is also in decline, but that’s a different problem entirely.

It turns out that shares a Gannett Corp. were a heckuva buy in March when they plummeted to $1.85. The stock hit $15.49 on Wednesday as a leading analyst upgraded his outlook for the newspaper industry, saying December could be the industry’s best month in three years. Well Fargo Securities analyst John Janedis said the slide in advertising is slowing and that ad revenues could be down only 8% or 9% next year, compared to more than 30% this year. Janedis raised his rating on Gannett to “outperform” from “underperform” and on New York Times Co. to “market Perform” from “underperform.”

Not in Our Back Yard

We continue to be amazed at how newspapers bury the lead when announcing bad news about themselves. Check out this press release from the Washington Times as reprinted on Talking Points Memo:

The Washington Times today announced that it will begin producing a more focused Monday through Friday edition designed to feature its most distinctive news and opinion content.

Offered as a combination controlled market and paid general interest newspaper at a price of $1.00, the new print edition will be available at retail outlets and newspaper boxes throughout the D.C. metropolitan area. The current newspaper’s last Sunday edition will publish on December 27.

That’s right: the news is that the Times is killing its Sunday edition. This is on top of laying off 40% of its staff a few weeks ago. The paper is also reportedly considering eliminating its sports section entirely. Perhaps the Times reporters wouldn’t bury the lead on this particular story, but the PR department surely did.

Miscellany

Slate’s Jack Shafer throws cold water on publishers’ love affair with e-readers. Citing slick recent demos by magazines like Sports Illustrated, Esquire, GQ and Wired of their content running on handheld tablets, Shafer harkens back to the days of the Washington Post‘s Pathfinder.com experiment and Newsweek on CD-ROM. Publishers thought those delivery vehicles were going to reinvent their business but the efforts crashed and burned for reasons ranging from the public apathy to the relentless commoditization of information. E-readers are simply another delivery device, Shafer asserts and the tiny sales generated by iPhone apps aren’t going to replace revenue lost from print advertising. The devices also negate the tactile and visual appeal of a print publication, reducing the editorial product to just another stream of content.


The New Bedford Standard-Times becomes the latest paper to start charging readers for online access. Its rather convoluted plan announced this week gives readers three stories per month for free, seven more stories if they register and full access for $4.60 per week. That package also includes a print subscription, which usually costs $4.23. So online access for existing readers comes at an additional charge of $.37 per week.


If you’re looking for an inspiring message to give journalism school students, you can’t do much better than the one NewsLab’s Deborah Potter invented for graduates of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Today’s journalism professionals need to be inquisitive, resourceful and versatile, she says. Yes, news organizations are contracting and pay levels are shrinking but journalists have an unprecedented opportunity to reach a global audience. You’re on your own more than you’ve ever been, but that can be energizing as much as it’s terrifying. The future of journalism is “what you DO, irrespective of where you do it…your credibility depends on HOW you do what you do, not where you do it.” Believe, us it reads better in context. Potter’s also confident that revenue models will emerge that make journalism sustainable.


If you’re wondering what all the fuss is about augmented reality, Jeff Jarvis has a nice collection of video clips showing different ways in which the commendation of images, databases and mobile access can make the world around us more accessible. Here’s one:

Newspaper Project adNewspaper companies went on the offensive this week, launching a public relations campaign to rebut forecasts of their impending death and boasting that more people read a newspaper the day after the Super Bowl than watched The Big Game.

The group was conceived by executives from Parade magazine, which wouldn’t exist if it weren’t for its weekly insertion in Sunday newspapers, and people from three other companies: Community Newspaper Holdings, Philadelphia Media Holdings and Cox Newspapers. Philadelphia Media Holdings, which owns the Philadelphia Inquirer, is teetering on the brink of insolvency and Cox has put 29 of its newspapers up for sale. In other words, the group hardly represents the pinnacle of management excellence in a troubled industry.

Nevertheless, the Newspaper Project launched with a website and ads that appeared in 300 newspapers on Monday. Here’s a PDF, if you’re interested. So far, the website appears to be mainly a linklog of material that’s appeared elsewhere, but the slate of authors is impressive. “Future ads will highlight the civic value of news content and how well print advertising continues to work for many businesses,” says Poynter’s Rick Edmonds.

It’s good to see the industry standing up for itself, but it’s depressing to see this initiative so focused on print. We agree with Ken Doctor, who was quoted applauding the project by the AP but who pointed out correctly that a name like “Newspaper Project” demonstrates a backward-looking perspective at a time when the industry really needs to talk about the future. Running kickoff adds in 300 newspapers strikes us as a recursive exercise to promote the industry to its existing audience, although the decision was no doubt heavily influenced by the availability of free ad space. Perhaps the group will focus future messages on the essential role newspapers play as sources of online news. That message is more likely to resonate with the disconnected under-40 audience.

P.S. Speaking of Philadelphia Media Holdings, owner Brian Tierney has reportedly asked the governor of Pennsylvania for state aid to keep the Inquirer and Daily News afloat. State aid may be the only option, since the company already missed a debt payment last September and survives at the benevolence of its creditors.

P.P.S. Monday was “National Buy a Newspaper Day.” The grass-roots effort was conceived by reporter Chris Freiberg of the Fairbanks Daily News-Miner, who set up a Facebook group and recruited 20,000 people to pledge to do their part for at least one day. We did by picking up a copy of the Orlando Sentinel. Another Facebook group has now formed targeting Feb. 13 for a similar action.

Gillmor Weighs in On Nonprofit Debate

Last week’s New York Times op-ed promoting the idea of funding newspapers as non-profit ventures continues to draw the ire of new-media advocates. Dan Gillmor, who practically fathered the citizen journalism movement, bluntly dismisses the proposal by two Yale financial analysts as “shallow thinking” and says that plenty of innovative for-profit business models are emerging. Expanding on comments we reported earlier (see “Voice of Reason in Nonprofit Debate”) Gillmor argues that the flaw in current save-the-industry thinking is that the industry as we know it deserves to be saved. Newspapers “have been systematically looted over the years, to send money to far-off corporate headquarters to pay fat executive salaries and boost stock prices. Preserve them? Why would we want to do that?” he asks.

The role of non-profits is to preserve worthwhile markets that can’t support profitable ventures, notes Gillmor, a veteran newspaperman. There are certainly some unprofitable newspaper functions that deserve to be supported, such as covering city council meetings, but “a great deal of the community information we’ll get in a few years will come from for-profit sources… We’re seeing an explosion of innovation now.”

Gillmor is right on the money. Endowments, public trusts and government funding shouldn’t be dismissed as a means to fund journalism in the public interest, but to use charitable contributions to fund a badly broken business model is, you know, paving the cowpaths.

Blaming Google

Recovering Journalist Mark Potts takes a machete to a recent column by former Washington Post editor Peter Osnos in which Osnos blames Google for profiting from links to newspaper content. Google has replaced Craigslist as the industry bogeyman in recent months, despite the fact that it has tried harder than any other successful Internet company to find ways to shore up the print business. Complaints that Google is harvesting the hard work of newspapers through links from Google News ring hollow, Potts says, when you consider that Google News doesn’t carry any advertising. Newspapers fail to appreciate the fact that Google sends them 20% to 30% of their online volume, he notes, and they ignore the fact that many do a lousy job of optimizing their pages for Google Adsense, the result being that the search giant ends up serving generic ads with poor click-through performance to stories that deserve better.

In a comments exchange, Potts piles on further, noting that the newspaper industry is uncomfortable with the notion of real competition. “Google and Yahoo control more than half of local online advertising spending,” he notes. “That’s disgraceful–and the shame lies entirely at the feet of newspapers, for failing to adequately pursue local online ad opportunities.”

Murdoch has NYT Envy

Rupert Murdoch “sits around all day and thinks about buying The New York Times,” said Murdoch biographer Michael Wolff in a Tuesday session at the Harvard Business School Club of New York. Murdoch also thinks the Times‘ financial saga will play out soon and there’s a fair chance Murdoch will end up with his trophy, Wolff said. That won’t necessarily be a bad thing for the Old Gray Lady, since Murdoch’s Wall Street Journal has managed to avoid layoffs until now.

Wolff had few kind words for Carlos Slim, the Mexican billionaire who recently invested $250 million in the New York Times Co. at generous financial terms. “He’s our national embarrassment. He’s a crook,” the author said, quoting a source in the Mexican media. In contrast, Murdoch is a pure newspaperman, he said. And despite Murdoch’s reputation for exploiting sex and violence to sell newspapers, he hasn’t messed with the Journal’s editorial quality.

That argument isn’t satisfying Pali Research analyst Rich Greenfield, a vocal critical of newspapers who has neverthelss been a staunch supporter of Rupert Murdoch. Not any more. Greenfield has cut his guidance on News Corp. a rare two levels from “buy” to “sell,” citing lack of strategy. “While we have long viewed Rupert Murdoch as the most visionary CEO in the media sector…we are increasingly surprised/frustrated with his lack of strategic direction related to News Corp’s television station, newspaper and book publishing assets.”

Meanwhile, Portfolio magazine says two sources say there will be 50 layoffs at the Journal next wek.

Miscellany

Two Canadian newspapers – including the giant Globe and Mail of Toronto – announced layoffs. The deepest cuts come at the 110,000-circulation Halifax Chronicle Herald, which is idling 24 of its 103 staff members, or almost a quarter of the workforce. “The numbers just kept getting worse and worse and worse and we just don’t know where they’re going to end,” said Dan Leger, the Chronicle Herald‘s director of news content, in a dour summary. The Globe and Mail laid off 30 people on top of the 60 who had taken an earlier buyout offer. That’s about 11% of the total workforce.

More newspapers are trimming publishing schedules to cope with the advertising downturn. In Ohio, the Troy Daily News, Piqua Daily Call and Sidney Daily News all announced plans to cut out Tuesday editions. The publisher said the reduced frequency will help avoid layoffs, adding that about 10% of the combined staffs at the three dailies had been cut in recent months. Group Publisher Frank Beeson has details on how the transition will be handled on one of the more hideous-looking newspaper websites we’ve ever seen (via Martin Langeveld).

freep2We could almost see the collective eyes rolling in the newsrooms of the Detroit News and Detroit Free Press today as the newspapers’ holding company announced a “bold transformation” that will cut home delivery to three days per week and move the bulk of editorial content online.

The press release from Detroit Media Partnership described the move as “a sweeping set of strategic and innovative changes designed to better meet advertiser and reader needs,” although the reader benefit of delivering fewer issues wasn’t clearly articulated.

It has always struck us as odd that newspapers, whom we count on to cut through the hyperbole of press releases, can sling it with the best of them when their own business is involved.  For a more balanced perspective, read the account in the Detroit News. The comments from Free Press editor Paul Anger also convey a sense of resignation about the shift.

Newsosaur Alan Mutter wastes no time poking holes in the announcement, quoting a former executive saying that the pullback was the only alternative to shutting down the two dailies.  The move is historically notable in light of the fact that the News was once the largest afternoon newspaper in the nation.

Martin Langeveld is generous in calling the pullback “not the best solution…it keeps in place two separate press runs on most days while failing to differentiate the two papers more clearly. And implementation will be a nightmare, I’m afraid,” he says, shrewdly.

Editorial Departments Intact

About 200 people will lose their jobs, or less than 8% of the combined workforce. Cutbacks in the editorial department will be minimal because of the need to maintain “vigorous newsgathering operations and editorial voices,” according to the News account.  Most of the cuts will presumably come in production and operational departments.

Next to scaling back frequency, the most controversial aspect of the restructuring plan will likely be the introduction of a light version of both newspapers to be sold exclusively at newsstands on days when the full edition isn’t published.  Industry sources estimate that less than 40% of the circulation of both newspapers comes from newsstand sales, a fact that raises questions about how advertisers will be charged for running there. On Monday holidays, print circulation may fall close to zero.

A daily electronic edition will also be introduced for people who want to do their printing at home. “These are exact copies of each day’s printed newspaper and can be easily navigated and printed from readers’ computers,” the press release says. This means that the $170 million printing plant that the newspapers built in 2005 will now be nearly idle four days a week while printing is outsourced to the readers.  There is no research we’re aware of that supports the assumption that readers are interested in printing their own newspapers.

Cultural Challenge

The gutsiest dimension of the plan is the commitment to move much of both papers’ newsgathering operations online.  This recognizes the unstoppable forces that are transforming newsgathering organizations around the world.  As we reported here this morning, new Gallup research shows that 31% of US adults now consult the Internet daily for news while 40% read a local newspaper.  The trend lines, however will clearly cross sometime in the next five years, making the Internet the most important news source among US adults.  Only 22% of adults under 30 read a local newspaper daily, Gallup reported

The biggest challenges of all will be cultural.  Newspapers often give lip service to the importance of their websites, but stories still abound about resistance from ink-stained veterans who can’t accept the possibility that a screen can be as important a medium of news delivery as a printed page.  Detroit’s newspapers will now have to compete on foreign turf, adapting their products to the standards and cultural practices of the bloggers that so many of them hate.  It will be interesting to see if the reporters and editors can learn to thrive in a medium that has done them so much damage.

news_adNo doubt there will be lots of analysis and reaction to follow. We see that Gannett Blog has logged 70 comments in the first four hours. We’ll keep an eye out. In the meantime, we couldn’t help taking a snapshot of the ad that appeared on the Detroit News‘s account of today’s announcement.  Perhaps a cleansing is exactly what’s needed.

Vignettes from the field

Our RSS reader picks up occasional commentary by newspaper readers and former journalists that provide a glimpse into how the newspaper industry collapse is affecting ordinary people:

  • A Bay Area book enthusiast laments the Chron’s decision to fold its stand-alone book review section into the weekly news analysis pages.
  • A Twin Cities consultant lists the reasons he’s canceling his newspaper subscription. There are several. Like many readers, he simply doesn’t see much value any more. As newspapers slash costs and staff, the devaluation spiral continues. The product gets worse, which gives readers less inclination to read it.
  • Mark Hamilton remarks wryly on the dubious value of incessant political polling
  • Finally, the head of global public relations for Disney Parks & Resorts issues the most pessimistic forecast for the newspaper industry that we’ve heard anywhere. At about 10:20 in this podcast interview Eric Schwartzman, Disney’s Duncan Wardle states, “The printed newspaper industry has three to five years to live.” We hope his staff heard that!

Business sections feel the blow

Newspaper business sections have been hard hit by the ad downturn,

says Advertising Age. “The Denver Post — which folded its business section into other sections on every day but Sunday — just became at least the eighth daily to cut its stand-alone daily business section since early 2007. The Orange County Register made a similar move just a week earlier…analysts, advertisers and publishers say that the stand-alone sections were relatively poor sources of ad revenue that tended to be over-matched by national and online competition on anything beyond the most hyperlocal stories…A study by Arizona State University’s National Center for Business Journalism found that roughly 75% of daily newspapers today run, on average, one page or less of business news a day, and only one in eight daily papers runs a stand-alone section.”

Meanwhile, European specialty publisher Reed is going one stop further. It’s eliminating not just the business section but the whole business. Instead, it’ll double down on online media and risk analytics.

Glimmers of digital hope

The U.S. political campaign has apparently given a lift to newspaper websites, according to Media Post. Quoting: “The week ending February 23 saw visits to Web sites in Hitwise’s news and media category increase 22% compared to the same week in 2007. The upswing especially benefited Web sites for print publications, including online portals for magazines and newspapers. The New York Times Web site was the winner in the print category, taking 5% of total visits–a 50% increase in visits over last year. It was followed by People.com, with 3%, and The Washington Post, with 2%.”

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Did The New York Times do a disservice to investigative journalism by alleging that Sen. John McCain had a romantic relationship with a lobbyist? It certainly didn’t help the cause any. The article that caused all the fuss is actually well done, for the most part. The Times went to great lengths to document irregularities in the Senator’s relationship with lobbyists, and those inconsistencies are presented with appropriate sourcing and response. Had the paper let it go at that, this would have been good journalism.

What’s incomprehensible is that the editors chose to include allegations of an affair without any incriminating evidence whatsoever, other than comments by two disenfranchised former aides who never said they had any evidence, either. Times ombudsman Clark Hoyt upbraids Bill Keller, the Times’ executive editor, for running with such skimpy information and then trying to trivialize the topic as tangential to the piece. He calls the affair allegation, “the scarlet elephant in the room.” I’ll bet Hoyt and Keller aren’t going to be seen sitting together in the Times lunchroom any time soon.

Meanwhile, LA Times columnist Tim Rutten describes how the McCain campaign brilliantly turned the Times story into a PR coup. The McCain campaign said it had its best online fund-raising day ever the day after the piece ran. The outraged reaction by right-wing talk show hosts actually seems to have helped McCain mend some fences on the right.

In an interesting piece from down under, the Sydney Morning Herald’s Paul Sheehan dissects the Times story sentence by sentence, showing how choice of words can influence the tone of a story without ever stating an opinion directly. It’s a clever and original analysis.

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Mother Jones has another one of those opinion pieces by a journalist who is outraged – outraged, I tell you! – over the loose editing and poor fact-checking of citizen journalism. In this case, the villain is the Tallahassee Democrat, which published a popular blog by a local PR person whose topics sometimes touched upon issues that related to her clients. In one anecdote highlighted in the piece, the blogger supported a proposal to build a Wal-Mart near town while her firm was doing PR for Wal-Mart.

Well, shame on the Tallahassee Democrat, and shame on the blogger, but please no shame on citizen journalism. The problem here is that the newspaper chose to feature prominently someone whose profession should have raised warning flags and then didn’t fact-check her work. In a true citizen journalism environment, the blogger would be subject to community fact-checking, which would have quickly identified her conflicts of interest. She also wouldn’t have enjoyed the unfair advantage of the newspaper bully pulpit. She’d have to earn respect and trust on her own instead.

In attempting to trash citizen journalism, this article actually does the opposite. It highlights the risks of the hybrid models now being tried by mainstream newspapers as they desperately seek a viable business model. Take the newspaper out of this story and there’s, well, no story.

Update

Adam Weinstein, author of the Mother Jones article, responded to my comments via e-mail:

“Read your comments about my Mother Jones piece, both on their site and your own blog, and I just wanted to say: I couldn’t agree more. If I had it to write again, I would want to stress that the problem is not with citizen journalism, but with one particularly offensive media corporation’s attempt to co-opt it. They were less interested with understanding the open system, or with improving their responsiveness to community issues, than with cutting corners every step of the way.

“My gut says that print organizations can partner with citizen media and better use the Web, but that might require a greater degree of editorial vigilance, a tough pill to swallow for both (justly) free-spirited bloggers and (unjustly) penny-pinching newspaper publishers. But there’s a whole lot more Stacey N. Getzes out there, and until the mainstream media and readers grow to understand exactly how citizen journalism polices itself, a lot of Stacy Getzes are going to give bad names to both the ‘professionals’ and ‘amateurs.’”

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