Tuesday, September 01, 2009

More Noodling

More media noodling.

A friend informed me sometime ago that her "local paper" The Ann Arbor News was going tango uniform. Sort of.

The News converted to an online format.
While the print daily died, a new Web site, Ann Arbor.com rose with a mission of some original reporting, along with much social networking and community involvement.
I encourage you to read the entire article I linked. There have been many hybrid attempts and at times I have been guilty of being overly enthusiastic, but this one is fascinating. Especially how they meld the blogger content with the professional content.
The bloggers get technological assistance and coaching on the blog style, which Vielmetti says isn’t news or feature writing, but something unique. A copy editor reviews their posts after the fact and fixes typos or style and grammar errors. If one of the community bloggers writes something that really should be a news story, the post will be pulled until it can be substantiated, Vielmetti says. A reporter may be assigned to flesh out the idea — so in that sense, the community bloggers become a herd of highly invested tipsters.
I'm going to share a terrible secret - I secretly want an editor. I've always sought advice from the professional journalists - at times hounding them until they probably are ready to swat me on my puppy nose. The thought of a process which satisfies this need for mentoring is enticing. And I bet I'm not alone in those feelings.

And then this.
The unpaid community bloggers are described as “contributors” under their bylines on the site, in contrast to the AnnArbor.com employees who have “staff” beneath theirs.
It may seem small and it may seem stupid but this is important. Yes, it is differentiated, one of the myths we've battled over the years is the idea that we want to replace journalists, but the words "contributor" and "byline" is a monumental leap forward. It shows that the Ann Arbor News recognizes the differences in its content generators but puts aside the gross generalization that bloggers do not contribute anything new.

Sometimes, labels matter.

It's early still. But I have a feeling this one is worth watching.

3 comments:

Catherine said...

While I've been away from my hometome, Ann Arbor, for over a decade, I still have ties there and follow the local news on a semi-regular basis. The now shuttered Ann Arbor News had been struggling for years. As a small market (population: ~120K including ~40K college students) not far from the much larger Detroit market, the demands for a daily paper were limited. Additionally, the University of Michigan has a very well respected daily (m-f during the school year and weekly during spring and summer) student newspaper. There is also an excellent monthly local rag, The Ann Arbor Observer, that covers local news in depth. Think of it as an Ann Arbor hybrid of Creative Loafing and Atlanta Magazine.

As a child my college-professor father read 4-5 papers per day (The Ann Arbor News, The Michigan Daily, The Detroit Free Press/News, The New York Times, and the Wall Street Journal) in addition to several weekly newsmagazines. He was not rare, and while it's been nearly 40 years since his passing, I am confident (from anecdotal research when I visit) that there is still a big demand for "news".

The problem for the Ann Arbor News was that most of what they covered could be found in other places, both in print and online. My friends and family, though news "hounds" had long ago unsubscribed because the News failed to entice them in any way.

I've been following annarbor.com since it started and am happy that they have managed to harness some of the character of Ann Arbor while providing news and information.

It won't be much a surprise to those who follow Ann Arbor's trend-setting history. We were very early adopters of cable TV including public access channels (circa 1970 I believe); the first municipality to utilize instant runoff voting (1975); the first to elect a homosexual to public office; the first to pass nominal fines for the possession of marijiuna ($5 fine in the 70s); and a vibrant third-party for most of the 1970s.

So, all this to say, yeah, it will be interesting to watch annarbor.com and how it proceeds.

Sorry to write so much... got a little carried away.

griftdrift said...

Can we take a time machine back to Ann Arbor in the 70s?

Catherine said...

I wish, Grift. I wish.