October 11, 2005

Yahoo's News-Blog Mix: You Say Tomato, I Say Potato

There's plenty being written about Yahoo adding blogs to its news search capacity and as a blogger - and a journalist - I'm glad to see it happen (now I show up here.)

However, before we pop the champagne corks to toast the marriage of citizens and journalism, I'm invoking Sturgeon's law and declaring the relationship to be still in courtship.

Yes, as Jeff Jarvis points out, some Yahoo news-blog searches will return blogs that are more helpful and more expert than the so-called "news" stories.

But, then again, some won't.

Here are the top 10 returns off a Yahoo search on "San Francisco."

From the News category:

1. Ailing Bjorn awaits further tests in San Francisco hospital Open this result in new window, Reuters via Yahoo! News.
2. How the Next Quake Could Affect San Francisco Open this result in new window, NPR.
3. Chance of big quake hitting San Francisco by 2025 is 25 percent: study Open this result in new window, AFP via Yahoo! News.
4. SAN FRANCISCO BAY / Bay researchers try to mow down enemy / Invasive hybrid weed is suffocating mudflat habitats, San Francisco Chronicle.
5. SAN FRANCISCO / 2 men in taxi killed in crash / Suspected drunken driver ran stop sign, hit cab, police say Open this result in new window, San Francisco Chronicle.
6. SAN FRANCISCO / PUC manager favors shelving a 4th pipeline / Consultants' study shows alternative costing a lot less Open this result in new window, San Francisco Chronicle.
7. San Francisco Bay? Have we met? San Jose Mercury News.
8. 25 percent risk of large quake in San Francisco Open this result in new window, The Charlotte Observer.
9. The San Francisco Examiner.
10. SAN FRANCISCO 2 men in taxi killed in crash Suspected drunken driver ran stop sign, hit cab, police say, San Francisco Chronicle.

From the Blog category:

1. Job: Regional Sales Manager in San Francisco, Computer Jobs Blog.
2. Air New Zealand Fares to L.A San Francisco from $1469 return + tax, Best Flights Latest Specials.
3. San Francisco Police Officers Association (POA) Opposes Propositon H: San Francisco's Gun Ban Initiative, NRA-ILA News.
4. Fire-Safe in San Francisco, CSP Daily News.
5. san Francisco, MAC.
6. Treasure Island: San Francisco's Latest Political Scandal, California Conservative.
7. 9-Year-Old Swam San Francisco Bay to Raise Katrina Funds, ATSNN News Feed All Current News.
8. Geek Dinner in San Francisco, Geekswithblogs.net.
9. Headless Pinata at 1am, 18th St., San Francisco, While Seated Photolog.
10. Homeless folks in San Francisco make $8.62/hour as movie extras, Obscure Store and Reading Room.

As the saying goes, individual results will vary.

In this case, for someone wanting news of San Francisco, "news" wins over "blogs."

The news category suffers from repetition - replaying the same earthquake prediction story from more than one source - verifying the commodity nature of such reporting and its devaluing power of instant distribution of news.

The blog category suffers from Yahoo not distinguishing between RSS feeds from commercial sources (airline ticket-sellers) and bloggers (California Conservative). Perhaps that will be adjusted.

The juxtaposition of blogs and news is a good step toward wider recognition that the gate-keeping role of traditional news media is pretty much defunct and that both news producers and news distributors are looking for new models that can appeal to audiences. Still, as the debate continues over the identification, role and utility of citizen journalism, let's remember that the basic journalism function is reporting and that Mr. Sturgeon's observation applies to that as well.

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Posted by Tim Porter at October 11, 2005 09:11 AM