" SpiritofSaltSpring:BC:Canada:GulfIslands:SaltSpring:Salt Spring:

August 09, 2008

Crowd Powered Media Bytes Newspapers

It used to be good for wrapping fish in. Sure, maybe it works to line the bottom of the bird cage. It's great, I hear, for making paper mache donkeys for birthday parties. But reading it every day? Subscribing and paying for it? Are you kidding me? Daily newspapers are headed in the same direction as typewriters.

Poynter Online posed this question in a 2008 poll, "Today it's possible to stay informed without subscription to a daily newspaper?" A whopping 79% of respondents said they agreed or mostly agreed. We have to assume that the other 21% suffered a cardiac arrest just as their HB was about to circle "agree".

I always feel a little sorry for those telemarketers from the Vancouver Sun or Province newspapers. I mean, I'm not even of the generation raised on the Internet. I don't get the appeal of text messaging because it just seems like too much work to try and find the right teeny weeny little keys. I've never Skyped. I only bought a cell phone a year ago.

But, the damp smell of obsolescence fills my nostrils every time I have to cut one of those telemarketers off in mid sentence to say No. Don't want it. Don't have time to read it. Don't think the trade-off between trees cut down and crap written down is good value.

My new favorite way to get news is to go on to sites such as NowPublic.com. It's like having a correspondent in every city and a photographer on every corner. I can even upload my own photographs on to a story. I can comment on the news stories that are there. I can read others comments and see others photos and watch videos.

Okay, maybe Joe Blow from Arkansas was never trained as a journalist. Maybe the writing isn't great, but as the site says journalism is not rocket science. Got a question. Get the answer. Get the answer from people who know better and who saw it firsthand.

Nowpublic.com is like a news-based wikipedia. It's a visual Twitter. And, if you get something wrong, you can be sure that somebody out there on the planet is going to correct you so the facts will be as factual as any reporter can get and the stories will be more immediate.

Now, having said all that, I'm glad I experienced the old days of journalism. I'm glad that I worked in a newsroom that was a bit like the one in the movie from the book The Shipping News.

Being at that small newspaper was fun. It was crazy. I loved it. I hated it. It was so politically incorrect that it's hard now for me to believe some of the things that got said and done. Did they actually happen or was I just dreaming them?

When I worked at that paper there was a rough around the edges, hard-nosed production manager named Graham who actually layed out the paper in the back. I used to go into a dark room and develop by hand the black and white photographs that I'd gone and taken at some accident scene or junior hockey game.

Being a reporter - pre-digital - was in fact the job that demanded more skills than any other job I've ever had to date and it paid next to nothing. It paid poverty-level wages. Why is that okay? Why has that always been okay? For the same reason it's okay that professional athletes can make millions. No reason. No good reason. It's just the way it is.

The rationale behind Nowpublic.com is the same as the rationale for deciding to uncopyright your creative work. In fact, people who have gone that route have found that their work has received more exposure by getting their name out into the world. They choose the degree to which their work is copyrighted, an idea put forth by Creative Commons.

In a world of ever-expanding social media, I can't help but think that newspapers are now in the same position as men were when Gloria Steinem said, "A woman needs a man like a fish needs a bicycle!"

No comments: