It's 2009 And Newspapers Are Just Now Realizing That Reporters Should Interact With Their Communities?

from the better-late-than-never dept

We've complained in the past about how rare it is for reporters at newspapers to actually engage in comments on their articles. Instead, they seem to view the comments with disdain, pointing out how idiotic many comments are. Well, of course that's what happens when the folks at the actual newspaper ignore them. So, while it's nice to see a newspaper like the Cleveland Plain Dealer (whose writers have been advocating for changing copyright law to protect newspaper business models) finally realize that its reporters need to engage in comments in order to foster more of a useful community in those comments, it's really quite stunning that it's taken this long for newspapers to figure it out -- and that such a "revelation" requires a special announcement from the newspaper itself.
We're joining the online conversation. For too long, we at The Plain Dealer posted stories on cleveland.com and then turned away to focus on the next day's news. Now, we're encouraging our reporters and editors to pay attention to what you're saying, to answer your questions and respond to your complaints.
A newspapers' true asset is the community it serves. Too many in the newspaper business have been neglecting that community. It's great that this particular newspaper seems to have finally figured it out, though it's amazing that it took this long and is such a big change in focus that it requires an announcement.


Reader Comments (rss)

(Flattened / Threaded)

  1.  
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    Darkest Helmet, Oct 14th, 2009 @ 8:19pm

    Ignore them, and then they have no other choice but to join into the cultism of Faux news with their 9-12 project, and teaparties, and fake marches. Jon Stewart talked about this recently.

    http://www.thedailyshow.com/watch/tue-october-13-2009/queer-and-loathing-in-d-c-

     

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  2.  
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    Drew (profile), Oct 14th, 2009 @ 9:01pm

    Credit

    Hey man, we complain about newspapers that "don't get it" all the time, let's give credit where credit is due here, so long as they follow through on their intentions...

    Otherwise we're the guys who damn them if they do (HEY ABOUT TIME STUPID!) or damn them if they don't (GET WITH THE PROGRAM STUPID!).

     

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  3.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Oct 14th, 2009 @ 9:18pm

    It's great that this is happening in Cleveland. Now readers and journalists alike can discuss stirring local events like "Talking, Cigar Smoking Duck Flees in Terror from Local Woman Screaming About Kidneys."

     

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  4.  
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    davebarnes (profile), Oct 14th, 2009 @ 9:27pm

    Why would I leave a comment

    when you just turn away?

     

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  5.  
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    Felix Pleșoianu, Oct 14th, 2009 @ 9:58pm

    That's not the only thing newspapers are just discovering. The online edition of the New York Times has plenty of we-just-discovered-hot-water articles lately. It's as if their reporters are only now waking up to the realities of the Internet and technology in general.

    (Sorry, can't seem to find any specific examples right now, but their headlines that make it to Techmeme.com usually fall into this category.)

     

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  6.  
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    Doctor Strange, Oct 14th, 2009 @ 10:15pm

    A newspapers' true asset is the community it serves.

    Doesn't that put Techdirt and all newspapers in the same business, then?

    If so, then either Techdirt should start hiring reporters and trying to make their content more objective, or newspapers should start firing reporters and making their content more histrionic.

     

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  7.  
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    Mike Masnick (profile), Oct 14th, 2009 @ 11:08pm

    Re:

    Doesn't that put Techdirt and all newspapers in the same business, then?

    Depends on how you define "business" but in many ways, yes. But also the same business as Google, Craigslist, Facebook, Twitter, Amazon and many others.


    If so, then either Techdirt should start hiring reporters and trying to make their content more objective, or newspapers should start firing reporters and making their content more histrionic.


    Not sure how you get from one to the other. Please explain...?

     

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  8.  
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    Doctor Strange, Oct 14th, 2009 @ 11:17pm

    Re: Re:

    Not sure how you get from one to the other. Please explain...?

    If you're in the same business, then you should have similar goals: grow your community and make them pay you the maximum amount of money for the minimum expense.

    Techdirt has demonstrated that you can grow a huge and often rabid online community with few expenses, without reporters writing boring, objective articles.

    If you can grow such a huge community for so little, why waste money on expensive things like reporters' salaries? Why would a newspaper not be very interested in getting rid of their reporters and writing articles with whatever agenda maximizes the size and fervor of the community?

    If you claim that objective, original reporting is what attracts and grows the community, then why wouldn't Techdirt (again, who's in largely the same business) want to hire reporters to do objective, original reporting to grow its community?

     

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  9.  
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    Marcel de Jong (profile), Oct 15th, 2009 @ 1:06am

    Re: Re: Re:

    Rabid? Thanks... :-/

    Newspapers are in the business of reporting news (at least they should be).
    Techdirt is in the business of commenting on news.

    See the difference? They completement each other.

    The community is added bonus, but if you let it fester, then you lose a potential revenue stream. If you foster it, you can actually make yourself bigger, because you matter. That goes for newspapers as well. If you don't take your readers seriously, why should the readers take you seriously?

     

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  10.  
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    Mike Masnick (profile), Oct 15th, 2009 @ 3:04am

    Re: Re: Re:

    If you're in the same business, then you should have similar goals: grow your community and make them pay you the maximum amount of money for the minimum expense.

    You already seem to be misunderstanding how community works. As an *asset* it's less about getting them to pay you.

    If you can grow such a huge community for so little, why waste money on expensive things like reporters' salaries? Why would a newspaper not be very interested in getting rid of their reporters and writing articles with whatever agenda maximizes the size and fervor of the community?

    Heh. First, I like how you minimize the amount of effort it has taken into building the community around here. Thanks for that. Second, we've never tried to maximize the size of this community -- if we did we'd be writing stuff like Perez Hilton or TMZ.

    But the bigger point is that you seem to have totally missed the point in how you build a successful community -- which is in providing real value to a *specific community* not in just building the biggest general community.

    I note that you TOTALLY ignored the point I raised about Google, Amazon and others being in the same business as well. Google is a great business. Does it mean that everyone else should become a search engine? Of course not. Why would everyone want to do the exact same thing.

    No, you enable a specific community by focusing on that community.

    That doesn't mean doing away with reporters and just doing opinion. For some communities that's useful, for others it's not.

    If you claim that objective, original reporting is what attracts and grows the community, then why wouldn't Techdirt (again, who's in largely the same business) want to hire reporters to do objective, original reporting to grow its community?

    You seem to have totally misunderstood what was meant by being in the same business. I can't tell if you're doing this on purpose or not.

    Different communities are supported in different ways. There is no one best way to do so.

     

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  11.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Oct 15th, 2009 @ 4:04am

    It's a first step (and it may work). But I think they still don't get it: "to answer your questions and respond to your complaints". Sounds more like a suggestion box than a comment to me. What's cool is that having the reporters engage will probably work in ways they didn't expect or anticipate, so good luck to them!

     

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  12.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Oct 15th, 2009 @ 5:07am

    It sounds a whole lot more like they have figured out that they can run more comments in the news, and spend less money actually collecting the next days news. The paper won't get fatter, and there will actually be less news, more opinion.

    It's how Fox News runs, so I guess that is good.

     

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  13.  
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    Danny (profile), Oct 15th, 2009 @ 7:44am

    Check out Eric Zorn

    Great that the Plain Dealer has found community. Eric Zorn from the Chicago Tribune has been engaging readers on his Tribune blog for five or so years already.

     

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  14.  
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    Doctor Strange, Oct 15th, 2009 @ 11:12am

    Re: Re: Re: Re:

    I did not mean to imply that Techdirt's community and your ability to build it were not special. I am not sure why you would take it as an insult that the effort put forth to build it was so small given the community's size. Would you be prouder if it had taken ten times as many people working twice as hard to achieve the same result? Rather, I would assume you would be proud that such a huge asset was built through the extreme cleverness of a few dedicated people. We often conflate two concepts when we say something is "hard:" effort required and skill required. Brain surgery is hard, but not in the same way moving a ton of sand with a bucket is hard. Bob Ross' paintings were hard to make in one sense, and very easy in another. It took 20 years of practice to make a painting in 20 minutes.

    Engineers have long recognized the difference between working hard and working smart. Hence the two core values of any engineer: laziness and hubris.

    My underlying concern in all this is that the (necessary) changes to the newspaper business model will not incentivize doing socially-valuable things like objective reporting. It may even de-incentivize it. This is not to say that their current business models are doing a great job of maximizing social value either, but in this transition can I expect more or less social (not market) value from newspapers? Is going out and gathering news more or less profitable than opinion blogging? Is being objective more or less profitable than promoting an agenda?

     

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  15.  
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    Mike Masnick (profile), Oct 15th, 2009 @ 4:53pm

    Re: Re: Re: Re: Re:

    My underlying concern in all this is that the (necessary) changes to the newspaper business model will not incentivize doing socially-valuable things like objective reporting.

    Why? This is a serious question. There's obviously demand for in-depth reporting. If it goes away, that will only create greater incentives to do it right.

    Again, communities are formed around all different things. News is one such thing. That doesn't change.

     

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