Journalism pet peeves [Ongoing]

An ongoing list of journalism habits that get stuck in my craw. Audience hatred — You are not better than your readers. You are not smarter than your readers. You can hate readers all you want in your off time,…

An ongoing list of journalism habits that get stuck in my craw.

Audience hatred — You are not better than your readers. You are not smarter than your readers. You can hate readers all you want in your off time, but while you’re on the clock you need to serve them with everything you’ve got. Find value. Create value. Seek viewpoints. Respond to comments. Give a shit. Without an audience, you’ve got nothing.

Killing (tech) — Technologies do not kill other technologies. One might supplant another. The market might choose another. But gadgets do not have homicidal urges (yet).

Lists of pet peeves — That’s right. I’m violating my own pet peeve. No one cares! (And yet, I continue …)

Non-linking — Please. Seriously. Please. If you include a URL in a story, and that story is posted on the Web, you must take the three extra seconds required to link it in.

Stand-in opinions — Squeezing a quote out of a source that just happens to dovetail with the exact point you sought to make does not make you objective. At best, you’re being opaque. At worst, lame. Just say it. Put it out there. I’d appreciate the honesty. Maybe all the time you’ve spent researching and talking with folks has given you — hold on, this is gonna hurt — an opinion of your own.

Stealing and/or non-acknowledgement — I realize journalists are supposed to live for the exclusive. That’s fine. Competition is a good thing. But when you get scooped, give credit where it’s due. Cite the original source and link to the story, even if it’s a hated competitor. They won this battle, maybe you’ll get the next one.

Got others? Please share them below.

Followers aren’t readers, so let’s stop fooling ourselves

Anil Dash follows up his great post on Twitter’s suggested user list with an equally great piece that politely challenges Twitter follower counts. As he notes, analytics and inflated self-importance are nothing new: It’s a bit like when I worked…

Anil Dash follows up his great post on Twitter’s suggested user list with an equally great piece that politely challenges Twitter follower counts. As he notes, analytics and inflated self-importance are nothing new:

It’s a bit like when I worked at a newspaper: Every reporter thought “Well, our circulation is a million copies, that must mean a million people read my column.” Facing the reality that only 10,000 of those people read the column, or that perhaps only 1,000 of them were reading the advertisement on the opposite page, forced a useful and important reckoning into some false assumptions that were underpinning that industry’s workings.

The key here — and Dash mentions this in his post — is to dispel overblown notions so analytics become useful. Follower counts have value, just as page views, uniques, user-session times, circulation figures and subscription numbers do. But all those numbers have to be filtered through the realities of passivity and engagement.

Twitter’s most impressive attribute, explained in 115 characters [Quote]

“Essentially, Twitter left a ball and a stick in a field and lurked on the sidelines as its users invented baseball.” — Steven Levy in an excellent Wired piece….

“Essentially, Twitter left a ball and a stick in a field and lurked on the sidelines as its users invented baseball.” — Steven Levy in an excellent Wired piece.

“Set It and Forget It” Doesn’t Apply to Comments

Fred Wilson discusses the effort behind good user comments and conversations: But if the author of the news story, or opinion piece, or blog post, tends to the comments, replies to the good ones, signals the bad ones, chastises the…

Fred Wilson discusses the effort behind good user comments and conversations:

But if the author of the news story, or opinion piece, or blog post, tends to the comments, replies to the good ones, signals the bad ones, chastises the loudmouth bullies, and generally runs the comment threads like a serious discussion group, a serious discussion will result.

It’s an issue for the news industry because tending to comment threads is not part of a journalist’s traditional job. But I would argue that it is now and they ought to get busy doing it. For one, the journalists that do it and do it well will be better read. And they’ll be better informed. They’ll get tips in the comment threads. They’ll get constructive criticism that will help them do their job better. And they’ll get leads on new stories before others will.

I’ll add this: The tipping point for comments is when users stop talking to the author of a piece and start conversing intelligently with each other. Reaching this commenting utopia requires an inclusive mindset from the original author/writer/poster. You have to value discourse, not just top-down pontification.

Content Creators vs. Content Aggregators: Can’t We All Get Along?

ReadWriteWeb looks at the increasing popularity of Breaking News Online, a news aggregator that’s harnessing the power of Twitter and other Web platforms (and it just happens to be run by a 19-year-old). Within the piece, ReadWriteWeb hits on the…

ReadWriteWeb looks at the increasing popularity of Breaking News Online, a news aggregator that’s harnessing the power of Twitter and other Web platforms (and it just happens to be run by a 19-year-old). Within the piece, ReadWriteWeb hits on the central issue of aggregators: can they use original content created by other outlets to turn popularity into profit?

All of this is fascinating, but isn’t BNO still just an aggregator? In traditional media outlets “aggregator” is a dirty word (unless they are the ones doing the aggregation). In fact, Breaking News Online does very little original reporting. The company is going to monetize its research flow, editorial judgment, distribution channels…and links to other peoples’ content. If BNO is successful, there is a real risk of original content publishers objecting to the fact that someone else has found a way to make money off of (links sending traffic to) their content.

This aggregator antagonism needs to end. Like it or not, content creators ultimately benefit from the increased exposure and traffic aggregators supply. Creators are generally lousy at Web distribution because they can’t shake the allure of lock in (you need to read my content on my site), but aggregators — unencumbered by oldthink — know the value of broad and diffuse distribution. Compare Breaking News Online’s Twitter presence with that of most mainstream outlets and you can see the stark difference: BNO understands you have to serve the audience through the platforms where it’s already congregating. Repurposing RSS feeds as tweets isn’t enough.

What kills me about all this content creator chest pounding is that these organizations are missing the central point: As long as aggregators point traffic back to source sites, both sides benefit in this relationship.