If the newspaper industry could have its way, it'd probably prefer the Internet was never invented, and, if possible, throw Twitter and Facebook into a furnace.
Newspapers in particular were some of the first business organizations with websites, and, going on two decades later, most remain aggravatingly unaware of how to use or organize them. And they don’t understand, can’t acknowledge, or refuse to admit that some within their audience get news from them without ever directly touching their online or mobile properties.
These problems could be solved by a couple tech-savvy teenagers over a long weekend, but try selling that idea to a boardroom full of bow tie-clad, old school newspapermen (I actually tried to one time and they threw me into a furnace).
It’s both sad and shocking to see media companies using interactive media the way they are. Newspapers are bad, but [some] TV stations are the worst, particularly with Twitter, where what should be “social” streams are nothing more than automated RSS feeds of the station’s content. Which is fine, as many use Twitter solely for news discovery. Yet the media outlet should and could be far more engaged with its audience – the eyes for ads.
There was a story the other day about The Toronto Star forbidding its reporters from revealing “information about content in development, newsroom issues or Star sources” online. The Star isn’t alone in such a policy, and, like other papers, does encourage its reporters to get online and do the Twitter and Facebook dance. Probably because it feels it has to, but again, the throwing-into-furnace thing.
Publicly or even privately discussing or sharing information about sources I can understand. During my days as a reporter, keeping sources confidential was one of the policies I held dear, as it’s the main method of gaining trust and then using that trust to get insightful stories from them.
But the old journalism law of never publicly expressing an opinion on anything from politics to sports to your favorite Hamburger Helper flavor is outdated. And unwise.
If the traditional reporter is going to succeed in today’s world, he or she must find a way to relate to the people – which is to say, share opinions, discuss stories through social media, and make new friends and sources online. A source is most apt to give a story to a communicator that he or she can trust. And if that source is close with a hot blogger rather than a journalist who stays boxed inside a newspaper’s ivory tower, the newspaper can say goodbye to its exclusive.
The very news organizations that have long promoted transparency for the people and enterprises that they cover are slowly becoming symbols of opacity. Reporters and editors who aren’t online are unknown faces in a vast sea of highly visible content creators and news breakers.
The journalists who will still be around tomorrow are active online today, and many, unfortunately, aren’t allowed to be.
P.S. A few journalists doing the web well, sharing opinions and jokes, interacting, and reaping the benefits of it in their careers: @RexHuppke, @ryanobles, @jyarow, @julieshyman, @shiraovide, and @BizSenseAl.