Authority vs. reliability

An interesting blog post and discussion about “brand loyalty” in journalism. At work we’re looking into how to make our blog posts more identified with individual editors.

Some academic research suggest that people are switching from an authority to a reliability model on the web. (See Lankes, R.D. (2008), Journal of Documentation.)

In essense what this means is that more and more people are trusting the person (or the several people) online whom they have come to know, trust, etc., rather than trusting the experts. . . . A particular journalist may engender more trust or loyalty than a station or news organization.

Step aside, brand loyalty; we’re loyal to information now » Nieman Journalism Lab.

OK, if he doesn’t want us to read his papers

[Rupert] Murdoch plans to put News Corp content, including from UK newspapers such as the Sun and the Times, behind a paywall and has threatened to remove it from Google’s search index and Google News. (“Google to allow publishers to limit free news access”)

A paywall is fine, if he thinks that will work for his company (I have my doubts), but if the stories don’t show up on Google I won’t ever read them. The newspaper sites I go to daily are the Guardian, Aljazeera, China Daily, and the Imperial Valley Press, and I get a daily email of headlines from the New York Times, but I also read other newspapers when I am searching for coverage of specific news. In that case, I typically use Google as my search engine.

It’s certainly an interesting time for journalism. I’m eager to see what new business models arise from the ashes. Let’s all hope that the dross is what is cut away and that incisive, insightful reporting and investigation in the public interest is what survives.

Utne Independent Press Awards Nominees 2009


Utne magazine announces its Independent Press Awards Nominees 2009:

Surely you’ve heard that print journalism is doomed: layoffs this, budget cuts that, blogs, Twitter, podcasts, paid content, and so on. We, the deciders of the 20th annual Utne Independent Press Awards, must respectfully disagree with this conventional but flawed wisdom.

Take a look under “Spiritual Coverage” about a third of the way down the page!

More journalistic evolution

Steven Berlin Johnson has a similar take on the evolutionary process of changing the way journalism is done:

So this is what the old-growth forests tell us: there is going to be more content, not less; more information, more analysis, more precision, a wider range of niches covered. You can see the process happening already in most of the major sections of the paper: tech, politics, finance, sports. Now I suppose it’s possible that somehow investigative  or international reporting won’t thrive on its own in this new ecosystem, that we’ll look back in ten years and realize that most everything improved except for those two areas. But I think it’s just as possible that all this innovation elsewhere will free up the traditional media to focus on things like war reporting because they won’t need to pay for all the other content they’ve historically had to produce. This is Jeff Jarvis’ motto: do what you do best, and link to the rest. My guess is that the venerable tradition of the muckraking journalist will be alive and well ten years from: partially supported by newspapers and magazines, partially by non-profit foundations and innovative programs like, and partially by enterprising bloggers who make a name for themselves by breaking important stories.

Now there’s one objection to this ecosystems view of news that I take very seriously. It is far more complicated to navigate this new world than it is to sit down with your morning paper. There are vastly more options to choose from, and of course, there’s more noise now. For every Ars Technica there are a dozen lame rumor sites that just make things up with no accountability whatsoever. I’m confident that I get far more useful information from the new ecosystem than I did from traditional media along fifteen years ago, but I pride myself on being a very savvy information navigator. Can we expect the general public to navigate the new ecosystem with the same skill and discretion?

Let’s say for the sake of argument that we can’t. Let’s say it’s just too overwhelming for the average consumer to sort through all the new voices available online, to separate fact from fiction, reporting from rumor-mongering. Let’s say they need some kind of authoritative guide, to help them find all the useful information that’s proliferating out there in the wild.

If only there were some institution that had a reputation for journalistic integrity that had a staff of trained editors and a growing audience arriving at its web site every day seeking quality information. If only…

Of course, we have thousands of these institutions.  They’re called newspapers.

Community funded reporting

As a sometime-participant in community-supported agriculture, I don’t find the idea of community-funded reporting entirely oddball. I even think it’s a creative idea. But I want to see how it works out.

Spot.Us is a nonprofit project to pioneer “community funded reporting.” Through Spot.Us the public can commission investigations with tax deductible donations for important and perhaps overlooked stories. If a news organization buys exclusive rights to the content, donations are reimbursed. Otherwise content is made available through a Creative Commons license.