By paulgillin | May 16, 2008 - 7:52 am - Posted in Facebook, Google, Solutions

The devastating earthquake in China this week was the latest in a string of incidents that cast the spotlight on the Twitter microblogging service and its value to news organizations. Jeff Jarvis has called Twitter “an important evolutionary step in the rise of blogging,” but it’s really more than that. Twitter redefines the time value of news and is a critical tool in the development of citizen journalism. Individuals with cell phones can now be the eyes and ears of the world if they happen to be on the spot for a news event. Editors Weblog outlines the value of Twitter’s simplicity and open interface, which encourages people to experiment with new applications.

Writing on Global Voices, Mong Palatino notes that Twitter became a primary source of information about the recent cyclone disaster in Myanmar. We noted earlier a UK paper’s use Twitter to beat the BBC in local election coverage.

News organizations should see Twitter as an opportunity. Which paper will be the first to create a hyperlocal portal around a network of Twitter feeds provided by readers? If the mission of newspapers is to report the news quickly, shouldn’t they be outfitting reporters with Twitter accounts and streaming those feeds on their websites? Why haven’t any U.S. newspapers embraced this valuable tool yet?

CBS’s Daring CNET Play

Is CBS’s purchase of CNET a stroke of genius or a desperate play for relevance in the digital age? It does appear that CBS is serious about the Internet. In addition to laying off 160 employees recently, the network reportedly initiated talks with CNN about outsourcing some of its reporting work. Collectively, this could indicate that CBS is giving up the ghost on TV news and turning it attention to being an important player online. Alan Mutter questions the high price CBS paid for an online network that no one else appeared to want, but sees strategic value to CBS. The company certainly deserves credit for making some bold recent moves to reshuffle its cost structure and focus on the future instead of chasing a dying TV news model into the ground.

Hyperlocal Innovation Emerges Offshore

If the future of newspapers is hyperlocal, as many people think, then organizations outside the U.S. may lead the charge. Editors Weblog reports on lessons from a Finnish newspaper that is evolving an activist model that taps into issues that matter to the community. The editor-in-chief says the secret is to focus on soft stories that strike an emotional chord in readers and to pay attention to community issues that matter, such as the cleanup of a local park.

The Liverpool Daily Post is opening up its newsroom to observation and comment from its readers. People can see how decisions are made and contribute their ideas and comments to the process. What a concept. Newspapers demand transparency from the organizations they cover, yet the decision-making process in most newsrooms is as opaque as smoked glass.

Editor & Publisher reports on experiments in Latin America in which citizens do most or all of the reporting. The concept of citizen involvement is central to the Latin American newsgathering process, says Mark Fitzgerald. Many of the standard rules of journalism are suspended. “Irreverence is valued.”

Bloomberg Expands Editorial Footprint

Can a maker of computer terminals become an online media giant? We may be about to find out. Bloomberg LP has hired the former top editor of Time Inc. and The Wall Street Journal, to the new position of chief content officer. Bloomberg makes most of its money selling data terminals used by stockbrokers and other financial professionals, but there have been rumblings that the company, which was founded by New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg, wants to burnish its newsgathering capabilities.

Pearlstine has spent the last year and a half in the private equity world, but it sounds like news is in his blood. Bloomberg has been growing its footprint in that area. It now has 2,300 employees , nearly double its 2001 size, and it has been growing its financial news service, television and radio operations. With Michael Bloomberg’s term in office set to end next year, there’s been considerable speculation about what would happen when he returns to business. It looks like we’re about to find out.

And Finally…

  • Newspapers may soon face another threat, according to Alan Mutter: the huge ecological burden of print publishing. “A prototypical publisher selling 250,000 newspapers on each of the 365 days of the year adds nearly 28,000 tons of carbon dioxide to the atmosphere,” the Newsosaur says. “That’s roughly equivalent to the CO2 spewed by almost 3,700 Ford Explorers being driven 10,000 miles apiece per year.”
  • Journal Register Co., which is on life support pending payment of a $625 million debt this summer, has been offered a $25 million cash infusion from a current investor, who is demanding “a number of concessions” in return. Those concessions weren’t specified.
  • Two Washington Post icons are accepting the newspaper’s buyout offer: David Broder and Tony Kornheiser. Broder will continue as a contract columnist. Kornheiser’s future with the Post is less certain.
  • McClatchy Co. Chairman, President, and CEO Gary Pruitt said the company is open to selling the 49.5% share of the Seattle Times Co. it acquired as part of the purchase of Knight Ridder Inc. in 2006.



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