Articles

Rebooting the News #32

In Podcast on November 12, 2009 by Dave Winer

This is Dave here.. Sorry to take so long to get this out.

http://mp3.morningcoffeenotes.com/reboot09Nov09.mp3

This RBTN is more or less an interview with Jennifer Preston, the (relatively) new social media editor of the New York Times.

I think everyone is going to have a different opinion about this episode, depending on where you come from. I imagine that people who come from inside professional news organizations will react one way and people like myself, who are writing without an affiliation, will see it a different way.

Toward the end I came right out and asked the question I’ve been wanting to ask, and still want to ask — why don’t big news organizations open the floodgates and let the sources talk directly to the people who read their publications. At least that’s what I was trying to ask. Not sure we even speak enough of the same language for that question to make sense.

That said, I think Jennifer Preston has a tough job, being in the middle of a world that’s thirsty for change, on the one side, and people who want to keep things as they are, on the other. And that’s just how I see it. I imagine there will be many other points of view

I felt, after doing this show, that it was not one of our best — now I’m not so sure. It certainly stands alone, and it will likely get many different reactions. Have a listen, and if you have a comment, don’t be bashful! 🙂

13 Responses to “Rebooting the News #32”

  1. Very interesting show. I get the sense that the NYT is looking at “social media” (I’m not even sure exactly what that terms means anymore) as primarily a means of promotion: using it to facilitate sharing and discussions among readers to increase pageviews and sell more papers. That may be a smart business decision, but I don’t see that they’ve really considered the broader ways it could affect news as a whole, like we hear about on RTN.

  2. No, we consider very deeply the ways that social media affects news as a whole. Our twitter work is firmly entrenched within the newsroom and not a marketing adjunct (although we do like people to know they can find us on twitter). And yet, even as a social media booster, I can tell you that its actual role in shaping world events has been less than might be expected (eg, only 0.0027% of Iranians were on twitter). Still, there is potential there, and it is illuminating to have a window on how the world (or at least the more affluent, wired parts of it) are reacting to events unfolding. I haven’t had a chance to listen to the podcast yet, so I’ll wait to see if there is anything else to note.

  3. Jacob, i’ll save you some time:

    Dave waxed poetic about his Droid, Jeff said he really didn’t like cell phones. Nice that Jennifer was allowed to explain that no matter what Jeff and Dave think (she noted with both anxiety and amusement that Dave kept cutting out- “Hello, Dave, you there”? asked Jay repeatedly), the NYT was indeed moving toward more collaborative efforts with its users. Ok by me.

    Oh and Dave– you’re not on my tech list either.

    • That could be better labeled The “How nytimes.com, Twitter and other websites won’t get it till they publish me — or at least feature me in their Twitter lists”-cast. (Subtitle: “And breaking news coverage won’t be relevant till it affects me personally. Or at least uses my Tweets.”) The irony: The NYT online editor finally promised to publish Dave Winer’s Twitter feed. Because he somehow earned it? No. Because he pouted long enough.

      • That’s a silly comment — I said I don’t care if they include my tweetstream in their lists, and I meant it. I was making a different point, that could have been made more elegantly. I’ll cop to that much.

        I said it better here…

        “Toward the end I came right out and asked the question I’ve been wanting to ask, and still want to ask — why don’t big news organizations open the floodgates and let the sources talk directly to the people who read their publications. At least that’s what I was trying to ask. Not sure we even speak enough of the same language for that question to make sense.”

        If you’ve been listening to the series you know that’s one of the recurring themes

  4. Alex- Brilliant!

  5. […] Filed under: Essay « Rebooting the News #32 […]

  6. Sorry Dave, but I’m not sure I understand here (note I’m not saying this to be dismissive). So if you don’t mind indulging me here (I’m not someone who listens to a lot of podcasts, so please tell me if you have a particular one to suggest). Maybe it’s an easier idea to express wit a concrete scenario. Is there perhaps a recent example plucked from the headlines that would illustrate how this might work?

  7. Dave,

    Criticism of your inexplicably bizarre interviewing technique does not equal discrediting you. It does say something about your sincerity to seek open discussion and debate.

    • Just FYI — it was not supposed to be an interview. We haven’t interviewed any of our previous guests. They’ve always been discussions.

      To Jacob — we’ve talked about this many times on previous shows. I’m sure we’ll talk about it in subsequent shows.

  8. Dave,

    Sorry if i misunderstood, but you called it an interview:

    “This RBTN is more or less an interview with Jennifer Preston, the (relatively) new social media editor of the New York Times.”

    Best,
    Just FYI

  9. Jay,

    “Jeff said he really didn’t like cell phones.”

    Apologies for calling you “Jeff” in my first post. I can’t imagine why. (No snark intended- I really can’t imagine why)

    JustFYI

  10. I’ve taken a few days to let it all settle in.

    It was an odd show. Definitely worth it.

    I’ve been developing websites for newspaper companies for nearly ten years now and I think when Dave mentions “speaking the same language” he is touching on a very big point.

    I mentioned to Jay at the recent NewBiz conference that I’ve hit “reboot” several times over the years and failed. The reason was that I was trying to reboot the organization, not necessarily the news.

    Despite many individuals making progress toward grasping the revolutionary changes that are happening, many organizations still retain a culture that, while admirable in some sense, mixes about as well as oil and water with what we think needs to happen to reshape the news business.

    Few in my company would not agree that Twitter is important. But few would understand me when I try to explain that it is exploding the distribution layer, once controlled by press ownership, into a million atoms.

    The value for a news organization now is reassembling those atoms in a coherent way, or better yet, finding where in the stream to inject their atoms. The position of a news organization, a reporter, or any human in the value chain of information distribution, has changed from a vertical position to a horizontal one.

    It’s a DNA level change and my sense tells me when someone has not made the change, whether or not they are excited about Twitter.

    I can’t explain it. It’s like the people just sensing something was wrong with others in Invasion of the Body Snatchers.

    And I still sense it widely in traditional news organization employees. Much progress to be made there.

    The greater danger we are seeing is that once one is enlightened, they decide they must leave the traditional organization, because innovation is happening too slow. We saw a few examples of that this week.

    That said, I’ve also seen a few examples where some innovative folks are getting hired by traditional organizations, like the applications group at Chicago Trib.

    Time will tell if this is the beginning of a DNA transformation that will ultimately save these orgs, or just a few lucky bright spots that fail to ignite the flame.

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