March 24, 2003

Retooling the News Factory

Chris Gulker, in the opening volley of what he promises to be a lengthier salvo about the Information Revolution (sorry for the militaristic metaphor, Chris, but I've OD'd these recent days on CNN and Instapundit), touches on what I believe is a root cause of the newspaper industry's stagnation - its "assembly-line" attitude toward newsgathering and business practices.

The factory mindset pervades newspapers like a grimy fungus. It manifests itself in rote stories scheduled by calendar (Hey, it's August, time for back-to-school features) and sourced by a familiar rolodex of people who will take reporters' calls. [ Read: Robert Thompson watches TV for a living, Salon ]; advertising staffs that rely on revenue from department stores and national brands while driving away local, community-based businesses with exhorbitant ad rates (thereby creating an advertising product that is of little use to the actual residents in the market); and IT departments that hard-wired entire enterprises to legacy platforms and proved to be more truculent than defense contractors when nimbler technologies arrived.

The newsroom itself is perhaps the most factory-minded of all. It values tradition over invention; it sets deadlines to maximize press-room or distribution efficiency while compromising quality of content (can't get the big game in the sports final? too bad); it continues to embrace managerial hierarchies that emphasize "dues-paying," discourage collaboration and drive journalists to think they can actually improve their professional lot by aligning with the Teamsters when contract time comes around.

Any one of these characteristics is a serious obstacle to quality and innovation. Collectively, they strangle to exhaustion those who struggle to undo this system.

Chris points out that the news factory faces emerging 21st century competition from a "very large group of educated people are using an instantaneous and inexpensive global network to exchange ideas."

I completely agree. As I've said, the downsizing of publishing software and the upwelling of digital technology is flattening the information hierarchy. [ Read Mini Me(dia) ]

I'm looking forward to Chris' next post on the subject.

 Chris Gulker A shift in information processing
 Salon Robert Thompson watches TV for a living
 First Draft Mine Me(dia)

Posted by Tim Porter at March 24, 2003 07:16 PM

As soon as we own Iraq, America should go after Turkey and Syria. Turkey has not obeyed our commands. We pay them good money to be our puppets and yet they will not do as we command. It is time for regime change in Turkey. As for Syria, I believe these are the real criminals behind Osama Bin Laden. It is time for regime change in Syria. We must do this to protect freedom and democracy. Our humanitarian bombing is necessary to save the world. As soon as we own the world, it will be safe for all who support America.

Posted by: George Butcher on March 25, 2003 02:53 AM

Ah, but will he offer any ideas on what an alternative approach might look like in real life?

Posted by: Lex on March 25, 2003 08:59 AM

Your "thoughts" (and I use the term loosely) has done nothing but re-inforced my view that RSS/blogs are the toilets for human being's thought excrement.

Posted by: Marc Clifton on April 3, 2003 03:49 AM


Posted by: cheap term life insurance on October 5, 2003 03:18 AM
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