How The Constraints Of 'Traditional Journalism' Sometimes Lead To A Missed Opportunity To Better Inform

from the experiments-in-breaking-out-of-the-box dept

Recently, a NY Times article about the giant patch of floating garbage in the ocean got some attention, not so much for the contents of the article, but because it was the first time the NY Times had worked with Spot.us to fund some journalism. If you're not familiar with Spot.us, it's an innovative non-profit startup, that helps "crowdfund" certain journalism projects. I'm not convinced it's a great business model, but it is one that's interesting to watch, and a partnership with the NY Times is definitely a big win for the organization.

However, I think Mathew Ingram really highlighted the most interesting thing about the whole project. While the NY Times article that came from Spot.us was somewhat mundane and didn't add much to the half a dozen or so other articles that have been written about the garbage patch, the blog written by the reporter who did this project, Lindsey Hoshaw, was a lot more interesting and compelling than the NY Times article itself. But the blog wasn't a part of the NY Times at all.

What Mathew was really showing was how some traditional publications get locked into a certain way of doing things because "this is how we do things." And in that world "the article" is the ultimate goal. It's a "deliverable." The process and the journey seem less important -- even though they're quite often the most interesting parts, to a wider community that wants to feel more and more a part of the journalism process itself. The NY Times is pretty good about doing certain topic blogs, and even brought in the Freakonomics blog under its own brand, a while back. But Mathew makes a really good point that this sort of thing probably would have worked better if the entire blog was seen as a part of the NY Times process. It could have ended with a big "story" -- or not. It's not even clear that's needed here. In the end, the real point is that the old structures don't always make sense. And while it was already a big step for the NY Times to create this story using such a new and different process as Spot.us, the end result might have been even better if they'd gone even further and highlighted the journey of the story, rather than just the endpoint.
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Filed Under: articles, blogs, business models, crowdfunding, garbage patch, journalism
Companies: ny times, spot.us


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  • identicon
    rob, 12 Nov 2009 @ 5:25pm

    better writing?

    What's not clear in this post is what prevented the NY Times from including the stuff from the blog into the "story?" Why didn't the writer include some of the back story and material that made the blog entry so interesting? Isn't that part of what makes good writing good writing?

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 12 Nov 2009 @ 6:08pm

    While it is nice to narrowly focus on a single story, it should be pointed out that the Times probably ran dozens of other stories written on the same day about other local news. It is very easy to narrow focus on a single issue and offer more depth on that one issue, but the mandate of daily news is as much breadth as depth. There is a trade off made, similar to the question of what fits into a 30 minutes newscast. They could do 30 minutes of floating garbage, and ignore the other pressing issues of the day, but there is a balance stuck.

    Single issue websites or bloggers will always do a better job on their single issue, because they dedicate exceptional amounts of time to a topic with no consideration for return. That much isn't news.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    Fred McTaker (profile), 13 Nov 2009 @ 12:34am

    NY Times lacks links

    I rarely read the NY Times, and I think one big reason is that they seem very light on the links. If they have outside sources, they should link to them. The vast majority of links I see there are just to other unrelated articles containing the same highlighted keyword. They link to outside content so rarely its like they're afraid they'll lose you forever if every link doesn't start with "http://nytimes.com/...". Even so, they miss plenty of opportunities to link to other related articles on their own site. It's like they're trying to bring their print format to the web, which doesn't work at all.

    In general: if you don't hyperlink your sources in your article, I wont trust anything you are writing. This makes print a dead format to me -- I can't trust any of it.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 13 Nov 2009 @ 4:53am

      Re: NY Times lacks links

      ... as opposed to techdirt, where Mike often tries to set up "smart - dumb" arguments based on other people's opinions, one sided polling, and questionable pie-in-the-sky wonderment pieces? I admit, he links to them, often 4 stories deep before you can get there. That makes this site more trust worthy?

      Odd logic their Fred!

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]


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