This silly Reuters article suggests that a recent Twitter episode suggests that Twitter has attained some significance as a news mechanism. I’m a huge fan of Twitter and use it regularly and think it’s representative of a lot of interesting online social trends, but (unlike normal blogging) Twitter microblogging is hardly a threat to journalism and probably will never be a threat.
The scoop was that Dave Winer asked on Twitter about an “Explosion” in Virginia and the chatter stream (aka Tweets), eventually led to the correct answer – a tiny earthquake in Falls Church VA. More important than the fact this tiny event was hardly “breaking news”, it was very broken news and probably worried a lot of people until the “explosion” became a tiny rumble.
Again, Twitter is great, but let’s not go stupid here and start thinking Twitter represents a radical restructuring of our information universe.
Scott Karp has a nice post today about the intersection of journalism and blogging. I’m glad he notes the weakness of the argument that bloggers cannot be journalists. Suggesting mainstream journalism is on firm and high ground is especially absurd in this world where yellow journalism generally trumps quality, superficial treatments cripple even the few fine writers at major newspapers, and Fox and CNN TV news parade AnchorModels chosen primarily for looks (women) or bombastic nonsense (men) or both (Anne Coulter).
I’d suggest that a key challenge to conventional journalism is not so much one of quality writing as it is *scalability*. Bloggers work for nothing or peanuts, and there are many more coming in the wings. Most blogs will continue to suck, but some will be great and this number will increase as more writers get comfortable with the medium.
It will be increasingly difficult for publishers – even cutting edge, well funded ones like Nick at Gawker who is hiring a “journalist” – to justify paying much for content. I don’t think Gawker’s decision to hire a legacy media journalist reflects a new trend, rather it reflects a fairly atypical reversion to old trends during this transition period.
Contrast Gawker’s success with the demise of Blognation, which was not even paying people. Would they have succeeded with a bunch of “real” journalists? No, of course not. Good writing is cheap and getting cheaper. That’s not necessarily a good thing, but it’s certainly an inevitable thing.
[Following is this is a revision of a post I did over at WebGuild.org – the Silicon Valley social networking and tech education group] .
For bloggers, Gabe Rivera’s TechMeme has become a top technology watering hole, ranking and finding great blog posts and tracking the discussions that form around them.
Fred Wilson, a New York Venture Capitalist and great blogger, is lamenting the good old days when he thinks TechMeme had more of the stuff he wants to read – more of the old guard tech bloggers and fewer popular newspaper articles.
Unlike Fred, I’m happy with what I see as a diversification of the early TechMeme post universe. I’ve never been comfortable with the idea that the “old guard” does all the best blogging, and TechMeme does a great job of unearthing new voices for me. Frankly, I’d like to see even more new voices. As I’ve noted here before we need a blogging revolution (hmmm – I guess I’m too lazy to lead it?! I was supposed to get Scoble a list of “great new voices” and have not done that yet, though it’s on “The List”). My criticism of TechMeme is more along the lines that by design it will become too focused on the insider rumor mill rather than the most significant technology news stories. But I appreciate the fact that you want “most significant story” to be defined by objective processes rather than a handful of editors. TechMeme is doing a great job of that so far.
In general I find I prefer the new fresh voices to the old ones. Fred wrote that he likes new voices too but appears to be tired of TechMeme’s increasing number of legacy media stories about tech issues. I agree the old schoolf folks often miss the big picture, but they are driving much of the national debate on these issues so I want their take as well as the insiders angle from well-connected bloggers. I also appreciate that legacy media folks check their spelling, usage, and their facts – a point that should not be lost on many bloggers including this one. (But the spell checking takes an extra 30 seconds …. I have no time for THAT inconvenience!)
Thanks to TechMeme I find a lot quickly, and I also have the site doing some of the human filtering for me because I know Gabe won’t run lousy blogs. Are people writing specifically to TechMeme to get links there, as Fred notes? Sure they are, but this just creates the challenge we get with all news media – a sort of echo chamber where all the insiders are talking about the same stuff. That challenge is not really TechMeme’s fault – the solution for that is more good bloggers which will diversify the conversations even more and get people talking about things and linking to things they had not though about before.
[groaning] after I wrote the post above, TechMeme managed to have one of it’s dumbest top stories in some time – a clear indication of how insulated our silly tech community can become from real world issues.