the grass is greener on the internet


“Grandma, what’s a newspaper?”
November 3, 2008, 7:12 pm
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“Grandma?” The child will look up, with such a cheerfully angelic look that you know the next question must be particularly nasty.

“Yes dear,” I will reply, trying to keep a stereotypical wobble out of my voice.

“Can I ask you something?”

I will smile indulgently, and silently wish I hadn’t agreed to babysit. The child will widen its eyes, and ask incredulously…

“Grandma, what’s a newspaper?”

You can see it from the way the news has been dissected on blogs – everyone is telling you the latest news about why newspapers are dead. Very few are analysing it.

That’s the way online goes. The massive advantage your newsfeed has over the humble paper is that you can get the latest information as it comes in. It happens, then it appears on your RSS feed. Amazing. There’s no way you could ever have enough paperboys to achieve that with print.

But let’s be honest. It’s a scramble.

I read about a dozen different articles on the crash of the Aussie dollar a week ago. What I got from each was either a parrot of the last story, or the basic facts and a couple of random comments.

They didn’t tell me a story, they gave me a couple of facts. Now having several sources is good, it can help confirm that what you’ve read is correct. Unfortunately with the web, there’s the tendency to just repeat what you’ve read in another source in a different way. I had to sit down, read every article and put the pieces together.

This is where online’s benefit turns into a disadvantage; because you CAN get stories out faster, it becomes so that you HAVE to.

Several journalists have already bemoaned this as a death of their art, which is fair. It’s been labelled as ‘churnalism’ in some circles. How do you write a decent story when the main pressure is to get it out before everyone else?

This means that newspapers have the benefit of time.

They need to use it. If you can’t do it better, do it different. If you can’t do it as fast, give me a story that justifies the wait. Interviews. Analysis.

Those would be my directions to newspaper operators right now…

Would you tell them the same? Tell them to divest?

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