How long will it be business as usual?

Chip Oglesby bio photo By Chip Oglesby

There are many new media advocates, online evangelist, and bloggers who are calling for the death of newspapers and the survival of journalism. I support the idea of open source journalism. I also realize that we will reach a point in time were the general interest product is no longer sustainable.

Here’s the dilemma. How long will we continue to carry on as usual? It’s no secret that when layoffs hit the newsroom, the young and well educated are amongst the first to leave, while things continue with a ‘business as usual’ attitude. This cannot continue to happen.

I’m about half way through reading “The Control Revolution” which was written in 1999! It paints a utopian picture for the reader about all of the wonderful things we’ll be able to do in a decade (that’s this year!). Was anyone reading this book thinking “Man this is really going to change everything we’re doing, we better get on it?”

In 2005 I read “We the Media” by Dan Gilmor. It completely changed everything I knew about journalism and made me realize what was possible for us to really do. The day I finished reading it, I started building mockups for my own hyperlocal site which I never started, due to various reasons.

In 2009, I read “Here Comes Everybody” by Clay Shirky. Again, it challenged assumptions I had forgotten and reminded me that we need to involve our audience if we hope to continue as journalists.

Obviously, these and numerous other books have laid a solid foundation for what’s really possible for newspapers, but why are so few following suit?

We knew this time was coming, but many newspapers felt their digital strategy had been completed after launching their website and that’s not good enough.

Look around, few newspapers have a web-first strategy. Most still view the TV station as their competition. Most newspapers are okay with reporting stories after the fact, instead of starting a live story that continues throughout the day.

A perfect example of this could have been the live coverage of the Tom Joyner story. Twitter would have been a great medium to use. Cover it live would have worked also, but instead, most of the reporting was done after the fact. Also, collaboration with the Associated Press could have prevented two or more news companies writing the same story, thus wasting resources.

Some of these problems could be solved with education and change in newsroom culture. Having a knowledgeable staff member that can tell you what the proper tool to use at the proper time will go a long way. While a cover it live blog at the state fair may not be the best tool for the job, twitpic or twitvid may be an excellent substitute.

As long as we continue these esoteric fights among journalism pundits over paywalls or whatever, we’re never going to get anywhere. Instead, we need to be stepping up and showing people what they can do to help save their own livelihood and create a better environment for journalism.