Jul 02

How the Newspapers Can Stay Alive: Hire @Scobleizer

This is Newspapers Compared to New Media

I don’t know how Scoble does it. He follows over 103,000 people on Twitter and somehow manages to filter everything out to actually break news. I know he’s a big fan of using FriendFeed to filter through it all, but come on! How does FriendFeed help you break the news of a Chinese earthquake from a bunch of random people in China?!?! How would you pick up on that before CNN does if you have to sort through 103,000 other people’s tweets about ice cream and the crappy service they got at TJ Maxx?

Scoble is not just some person trying to be internet famous. I did think that at first. The guy is just completely obsessed with tools that help you obtain, filter, and then broadcast information. It’s not about being famous for him–he’s working on the small project of knowing everything everywhere all the time. Maybe military scientists will implant a MacBook Pro with wifi into his head which will push him to become an XMen character or something. But I digress.

So reporters obviously dropped the ball when reports of election fraud in Iran broke on Twitter well before they were covered on CNN (see #cnnfail). Scoble and Mark Hopkins were on it pretty quickly and were pumping out some really good stuff as things unfolded. Why couldn’t the reporters do this? Why are newspapers not empowering their journalists with this information and these tools? Do they not see information as their big competitive advantage over all the other noise we see in day to day life?

The flaw with newspapers is not that they aren’t free. On the contrary, I can go to any newspaper’s website and find all the info I need for nothing. The problem is that they just aren’t as relevant as they used to be. Journalists rarely have long-term specialties and are often ill equipped in today’s modern world. Why can’t newspapers upgrade to be Scobleistic organizations of people thriving on breaking information, tracking information, etc? Forget being threatened by new media–why do they not have the same intellectual curiosity to use it just by their very nature? Isn’t that their job?

In newspapers’ defense, this is usually a decision made by the top. I have met journalists who are very much into using the latest and greatest tools to get the job done. But why aren’t the higher-ups giving their people iPhone 3Gs and computers with Aircards? Don’t they want to deliver the freshest and most accurate news possible?

So if you run a newspaper, hire Robert Scoble as a consultant to teach you how to actually report news in a modern world. Or go away. If your news is that good, you could even (gasp) charge for it. Just don’t tell Chris Anderson that.

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  • Brian

    Everyone agrees journalists should be inquisitive and open to new tools. I also think everyone agrees they should be integrating Twitter into their reporting. Nytimes did a nice job with this on the Iran story.

    What I think is confusing/dangerous in your point is that a lot of news doesn’t just bubble up. Investigative journalism is hard. You don’t just stumble into breaking a government cover up, corporate malfeasance or a church sex scandal.

    It’s easy to report an earthquake. Earthquakes don’t sue people. It’s hard to accuse someone of rape and then stand by it in court. That is why we need trained investigative journalists and not just aggregrators posting on Twitter/Blogs with the “FIRST!” comment to break a piece of news.

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  • http://michellesblog.net Michelle

    Brian,

    My mother taught journalism and I am well aware that breaking news is not always correct.

    I also know that social media helps you get many perspectives of a story, and breaking news is not the only way it can be used.

    I am not devaluing journalism at all. I am merely stating that journalists’ skills would be better harnessed if they were given the tools they needed to better research stories.

  • http://www.gravity7.com adrian chan

    Personally I need somebody to filter scoble (and a few others) for me so that I just get the high value stuff.

    There’s a difference between journalism and breaking news; and a difference between reporting and distributing. True, social media collapses those distinctions to some degree. But for journalists to become news wires, and for their role to forego critical reflection in favor of speed and reach (scoble’s advantage) would be a tragic thing as far as I’m concerned.

    But then I still read the New York Times in print ever day. Where I’ve yet to see a Scoble byline.

  • http://michellesblog.net Michelle

    Adrian,

    Did you read my comments to Brian? Because you can use social media to validate sources and do investigative journalism. Every source is a new source of information, and social media is full of sources.

    Your filter point is noted though. Newspapers would have to hold back more than Scoble does.

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  • http://empoprise-bi.blogspot.com/ John Bredehoft

    I got here from Steven Hodson’s post. I think that part of the issue with traditional newspapers is that, because of their former technology, they still have a daily publication mindset. Even in the days when newspapers printed “extras,” you still had a particular cycle. You’re not going to change that for hardcopy publications, but perhaps the papers could adopt a two-tier content system, with a free tier offering breaking news 24/7, and a pay tier offering more in-depth analysis. This could be available on-line and in print, and can play to the journalists’ strengths.

    John Bredehofts last blog post..Is smaller truly better?

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