Bill Joyce, Alan English
Originally uploaded by trudeau.
Gannett Co, the nation's largest newspaper chain, is opening its news space to bloggers. Why?
Across America, newspapers are losing circulation and profit. As the media morphs, even as news staffs are cut, the papers are suffering. Gannett has decided to see whether bloggers can add value and vitality to their online package.
Accordingly, Alan English, Times executive editor, and Scott Anderson, new media editor, have signed me as a *community blogger.* There's a link to SptFaces on the online front page. Expect to see a link to ShreveportBlog on the online Times front page in December, says English. It's an arrangement that I proposed to them in June of 05.
English has long been intrigued by the idea of linking to blogs because he's a tech-minded editor. He was the first to publicly recognize the value of SptBlog (Feb 13, 05).
In the meantime shreveporttimes.com has been striving for readability and building an audience. It remains a jumbly site but seems to have a cleaner look each month. So far it has a weak search engine. But the number of daily hits the front page earns is impressive, according to English.
Bloggers are mosquitos. We can do the easy stuff, the hit & runs. And bloggers like me revel in posting images with every story. Newspapers are ponderous, armed tanks. They may be slow and image-poor but the thing is, they make money. Few bloggers have been able to monetize, as we call it.
Somewhere between us lies the cash for both readers and journalists. Managers like English and the Gannett honchos need to rebuild the tank as an all-terrain hybrid. I think a continually updated web site could - somehow - pump up their print product.
So the Times is exploring digital options. Staffers are being given videocams. Cool. Video is not an easy skill to acquire, but it's worthy in a world that gets much of its news from YouTube.
Why isn't each reporter using a blog for quick updates on the stories they're assembling and composing? So far the Times uses staff blogs as a sort of add-on. My favorite Times staffer blog is Alex Kent's Louisiana Movies Blog.
Reporters probably see podcasts as an untenable burden. In the future savvy newsprint reporters will piggyback aural interviews almost as second nature. The online paper is moving in that direction: the Times multimedia production on the Space Center at SciPort is effective.
How much brainpower can Shreveport muster in an effort to renew the news model? A lively and varied media is essential if the quality of life here is to improve. But can we create a sustainable series of digital sites that will both stimulate the public and generate money? We shall see.