Tag Archives: Gina Chen

Start making sense

Common to both Gina Chen and Megan Garber’s recent calls for incorporating the Wikipedia aesthetic into newsrooms is the timely idea of giving readers what they need to empower themselves and make sense of the world.

In her look at the hyperlocal upstart WikiCity, Chen sees a potential model (and perhaps partner) for news organizations wanting to tap into hyper-niches in their communities. In previous posts, Chen has advocated for a reinvention of news websites so that they place more emphasis on giving readers what they want — not just in terms of news, but a whole host of interests.

I think Chen is right in wanting news organizations to play a bigger, more comprehensive role in being a “one-stop-shop” for readers, via curation, in their geographic area. After looking the WikiCity sites for Tampa and St. Petersburg, (I live in the Tampa Bay area), I can see the potential for fulfilling Chen’s vision, though there’s some work to be done, as neither site is arranged in a way that I would dare call “intuitive” and the content is generally very thin.

Garber, who writes for Columbia Journalism Review, has a piece on health care coverage and Wikipedia that is in sync with my own appreciation for the “wikification” of the newsroom.

Garber contrasts the lurid drama of the “death panels” narrative that has “proven irresistible to reporters” with the well-organized, comprehensive Wikipedia entry for “Health Care Reform in the United States.”

Indeed, what Wikipedia provides, ultimately, is information, pure and simple. And, perhaps just as significantly, it provides the implicit assumption that ‘information, pure and simple’ is enough. An encyclopedia entry has no mandate for a ‘colorful lede.’ It has no instinct for conflict. It assumes its audience’s attention, rather than feeling compelled to earn it, painstakingly—word by dramatic word.

And, because Wikipedia is crowdsourced, it has no implicit mandate, ethical or economical, toward ‘balance’ and ‘objectivity.’ It thus has no vested interest in the kind of he said/she said approach that has, to this point, so sorely compromised the mainstream media’s health care narrative.

Should journalists get it right, or get it first?

UPDATE (at bottom of post): Letter writer to Romenesko accuses Jarvis and Arrington of falsely accusing Damin Darlin (author of the NYT article that started this kerfuffle) of attacking bloggers.

Nothing like a battle between mainstream media and bloggers over journalism ethics to add some juicy drama to the weekend. Here’s the quick and dirty:

The New York Times runs a story taking tech bloggers (including TechCrunch) to task for running stories without verification.

TechCrunch’s Michael Arrington fires back, accusing the Times of having already made up its mind about what kind of story it was going to run before it interviewed him.

And Jeff Jarvis weighs in, declaring that “process journalism” — reporting what is known or believed to be true as it is learned — is replacing the myth of perfection, wherein reporters get the story verified beyond any doubt before packaging and presenting it to readers.

Ah, but there’s the rub: What is the potential harm in reporting what falls into a category that’s perhaps a notch or two below what is “believed to be true”? Arrington makes the argument that TechCrunch’s post on rumors of Apple being in talks to acquire Twitter was based on a previously reliable source. Furthermore, he argues, the very act of reporting a rumor is a way of verifying by beating the bushes, so to speak:

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Does your newsroom know its community?

Take about a minute and look at Mark Glaser’s 10 steps to saving newspapers in the digital age (via CyberJournalist). And then take note that the thread running through each of these steps isn’t about cutting costs as much as it is about being innovative in the effort to engage the local community.

Because I’m a good netizen, I won’t reprint the short post here and deprive CyberJournalist of the traffic, but I will say that Glaser is right on target in telling news sites to focus on what businesses want, rather than viewing them as an endless source of advertising dollars. And his recommendation to engage the community in face-to-face meetings recalls Gina Chen’s fine Save the Media post on how journalists can create communities of readers.

Thinking outside the paid content box

In his recent post about Journalism Online’s intent in proposing a system for news sites to charge for their online content, Steve Outing notes the absurdity of asking readers to pay for content offered by outlets whose quality has diminished after laying off  thousands of journalists:

The minute paywalls go up on content on the web, all but the most devoted will click elsewhere to find alternatives. Consumer behavior will make an abrupt change online. Brill and his supporters think that newspaper content is so special that bloggers and new news players online won’t match the quality, yet newspaper quality has been sinking badly as thousands of journalists have been pushed onto the street.

Setting aside the issue of quality, news sites that intend to charge for content have their heads in the sand if they think people will pay because “Who else will provide the coverage?”

Plenty will. And plenty are, as Mark Potts pointed out during a panel in Baltimore, titled “The End of Local News? If Communities Lose Newspapers, Who Will Fill the Void?”:

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Rethinking the newsroom and journalism

I’m sharing a few quotes I’ve excerpted from Gina Chen’s excellent post, “Journalists must change thinking to change industry.” Chen was inspired by Jeff Jarvis’s recent blog entry about the need for journalists to add value in their newsrooms. And while Chen frequently cites Jarvis’ What Would Google Do?, her own observations are equally compelling:

  • In my experience, the hurried newsroom culture doesn’t encourage deep thinking.

Indeed it doesn’t. To give but one example: Journalists on a beat are forced to quickly write stories both large and small, with no time to step back and consider, “Is my daily routine serving my readers in the way they would — and should — expect?”

  • We forget that we’re a service industry: We’re in the business of helping readers make sense of their world, not of selling them news.

And yet how many times have we read articles that are little more than notebook-dumps of information? Journalists, in the rush to make deadline, have little time but to toss half-baked, confusing stories upon their readers — readers who need knowledge, and don’t care whether we’ve included a minimum of three sources, or have written an award-worthy nut graf.

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Gina Chen's open letter to newspapers

Gina Chen of Save the Media has an outstanding post today that tells newspapers what she as a consumer expects from them.

Here’s Chen on:

Wanting original, well-reported articles:

While we still have a newspapers, don’t fill it just with 6-inch stories and snippets of yesterday’s news. I’ve read those already online. What I haven’t read already online is enterprise, a well-written profile that really digs deeply into a person, investigative pieces that expose government waste, inequity and greed. The short, shallow story isn’t going to save newspapers.  And if that’s all I get in the print, honestly, I don’t need the print at all. …

… There’s really no excuse for running most feature wire stories these days with a few exceptions, such as movie openings or some science and technology pieces.  And if you must run it, please make sure it has some additional information to localize it. That can be as simple as: Can I buy the product here? Is the trend happening here? What’s the local impact.  And, please, please, don’t tell me you don’t have enough reporters because you’ve laid them all off or cut their hours or furloughed them. That may be true, but as a consumer, I don’t really care. …

… Every reporter should be doing enterprise reporting on his or her beat. Some stories may be simply noticing a trend in a community; that’s fine. Not every story has to be Watergate. But there should be many stories that tell me something I can’t get anywhere else.

On integrating print and Web:

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More Twitter tools for journalists

Gina Chen can always be depended upon for sharing with journalists great tips to improve their work. And she comes through again, with six Twitter tools for journalists.

This is a topic that Chen has covered before.

Two of the newly discovered tools that interested me most were Retweetist and Back Tweets. Check them out.