Thursday, November 26, 2009

More Troubling News about Newsgathering

The continuing decline of the newspaper business has claimed another victim. According to this story by Howard Kurtz in The Washington Post yesterday, the paper has decided to close its remaining national bureaus in New York, Chicago and Los Angeles.

“The money-saving moves, coming on the heels of four rounds of early-retirement buyouts and the closing or merging of several sections, are the clearest sign yet of the newspaper's shrinking horizons in an era of diminished resources.”

In an attempt to put a positive spin on this development, Executive Editor Marcus W. Brauchli, claimed that the paper can still effectively cover these major US cities with reporters sent out from Washington, DC.

Perhaps it can. There is no doubt that technology has made it easier to gather information and file stories. Still, there is something to be said for having local reporters who possess a deeper understanding of local issues.

Then again, perhaps the paradigm for local news gathering is changing.


Anonymous said...

The paradigm for local news gathering may be changing, but it is unlikely that HoCoMoJo represents the future of local news (at least in its current state of evolution). Just taking a look at the HoCoMoJo homepage makes that case pretty clearly. There is a bunch of information about miscellaneous high school plays and some photographs from earlier this summer. Yawn. And for goodness sake, how much longer is it going to say “beta” beneath the HoCoMoJo header?

Anonymous said...

Not only that, anon, but they throw cream puff questions at a run-amok council reminiscent of the Sat. Night Live pillow to Obama question.

Hocomojo is following an outdated model. People are not interested in finding out if Mary Kay Sigaty needs a pillow, and seeing the syrupy dripping smile exchanges (wink wink). Vastly underestimates the viewer/readership.

The lack of success is certainly borne out by numbers at less than 2 dozen viewers of those expensive videos.

Dave Bittner said...

The current state of HoCoMoJo is only one small piece of what we hope will become a much more comprehensive, complete news and information source for Howard County. At the moment, it's being run by a handful of people, all volunteers, who are troubled by the decline of our local and regional newspapers and their waning ability to cover Howard County news. So we're running an experiment, trying to figure out what's next when it comes to local news. (It's surely not going to be printed words on paper.)

The high school plays are heavily featured at the moment because they came to us looking for a way to build community and have a useful communications tool after they dropped out of the Cappies. And we are happy to provide them with that. We'll be adding areas for local sports, politics and lots of other stuff as we ramp up in the new year.

The "beta" will stay as long as we feel it fits. We're making structural changes all the time, significant ones, as we try to find the right mix of content and fine tune the navigation, and as new types of content come online. (Such as the new podcast with Wordbones himself!) Gmail was in beta for five years, for goodness sakes!

As for the cream puff questions, well clearly my style of interviewing isn't for everyone. If you're looking for cable news shouting matches from me, you'll be sorely disappointed. I model my interviews after Charlie Rose and Terri Gross. Confrontation isn't my style, and it's simply not going to be the style of HoCoMoJo, although you're welcome to add your point of view to the comments sections after each interview. And we solicit questions before each interview on Twitter (@hocomojo). Underestimates the viewer/readership? To the contrary, I think our county appreciates long-form, in depth, intelligent discussion. And the feedback we've been getting supports that view. (Dennis and Paul will be interviewing Mary Kay Sigaty this coming Friday on their "And Then There's That" podcast, FYI.)

So hang in there with us while we explore the possibilities of a new medium for news, information and community building. And please, if you really, truly want help (and not just hurl anonymous criticisms from the sidelines!) give us some constructive feedback. Tell us what you'd like to see covered, let us know where the other local media outlets are dropping the ball. Pitch us a column, a podcast, write an opinion piece. The more participation and feedback we get, the better we can make HoCoMoJo.