Billy Idol - White Wedding
It's a nice day to staaaaaaaaaaart agaaaaaaaaainnnnnnn!
I write these pieces about saving the local news from time to time, so forgive me if I'm repeating myself.
It's just that the CRTC hearings have got my heart all aflutter, and my post yesterday - about the MTS ads on the front page of both newspapers - leaves me open to the big question: well, then, what would you do to save local news, hot shot.
Why, thanks for asking, governor!
How I'd save the local news:
1. I'd get some of our favorite, local, traditional, media outlets to team up.
I'm not talking about one media outlet buying another, I'm talking about a cooperative news-sharing arrangement.
First, we need to stop sniping at each other about "who scooped who," since people who consume the news don't care. I've heard CJOB report news I first read in the Free Press, I've seen the Free Press tweet news I first read in the Sun.
You all secretly love each other, so let's consummate this marriage already: CJOB + Winnipeg Free Press + CTV = Powerhouse!
2. I'd support it with new (and social) media.
After awhile, the new media part would be the only part. More on that in a sec.
Traditional media outlets need young people to consume their news. Young people are sexy to advertisers (and each other, but that's another blog post), and they're the demographic that advertisers will pay good money to reach.
Right now, the only place it can be reached with any degree of certainty is online and on the phone.
The iPhone hasn't invaded Canada at the rate it's invaded the U.S., but it will. At Lollapalooza in Chicago last summer, every kid had an iPhone, and that means that you - or your kids - will have one soon too.
I'd get a big, local sponsor to support the app. Canad Inns? The Canadian Museum for Human Rights? Manitoba Hydro? Great-West Life? Investors Group?
I'd update that sucker all day, all the time. It's not the size of the story that matters in the digital age, it's the story's timeliness.
I'd pay good money for that app.
And, as of yesterday, my Kindle is in the mail. Is yours?
3. I'd encourage participation by "everyone" and get rid of editors altogether.
Journalism only becomes vibrant when "some idiot with a laptop" participates in the discussion. And, if we've learned one thing about reading online, "journalism" is better when it doesn't have an editor.
"But editors check stuff!" Yeah, and stories are still wrong. So, let's just open it up already. More heresy: Don't edit (it pains me to say) typo-laden rants, blogs, or articles. Proper spelling only dampens the passion.
Disclaimer: not in school assignments, puh-lease. **Update: then again, maybe the whole notion of "spelling" is outdated. At least, that's what my text messages tell me: "whtrudoing2nite?"
4. For now, I'd only produce printed versions of the newspaper on Thursday, Friday, and Saturday.
Then, when the Great-West Life actuarial charts tell me that all the old people are about to die, no print at all.
5. Goodbye "objective journalism."
With participation comes subjective journalism with diverse voices - a network of blogs comes to mind, for some strange reason - and let's not just have professional writers posting articles and blogs and the masses providing feedback.
6. I'd make journalism fall in love with PR.
C'mon, journalists, I've seen your resumes pour in when I've posted a PR job. I know you want a little PR lovin' - and here's your big chance!
Despite the notion of being immune to PR, journalists themselves are already "brand ambassadors" for their newspapers.
I realize that the idea of an objective journalist is that he (mostly) doesn't wear a shirt and tie, comb his hair, or get along with others, but I'd make "PR skills" a prerequisite for my journalists. Who can sell a newspaper more than people out in the community, everyday, talking to people?
Now that's buzz worthy of a BzzAgent - every time you talk to your sources, sell them on the iPhone app. People will read and pay for the news if they're in it.
7. I'd partner the local news with local schools, colleges, and universities.
Let's turn students into contributors and, therefore, readers.
I've seen some very lame attempts at this in the past - most notably, the Regina Leader-Post's God-awful section written by kids.
How about this model instead?
Assign one "experienced" journalist to oversee and organize an army of student "citizen journalists," who would file hyper-local online reports from their community beats.
The students get free experience, the online newspaper gets free stories. I'm not going to say it's a "win-win," because that's a terrible PR cliche. So I won't. But it is.
Of course, this would - again - require a journalist with PR skills: you may say I'm a dreamer, etc.
And this would also free up old-school reporters to do the important work of "being a watchdog" and "conducting investigative journalism."
One of the biggest rallying cries of supporters of traditional media is "the demise of investigative journalism will screw us all!"
As I pointed out on this post, investigative, in-depth journalism is impossible for TV to do, and something that newspapers used to excel at doing, yet local newspapers have almost completely abandoned it, because it's so expensive and time consuming.
But this is the "public service" part of journalism that makes it so valuable and worth saving.
8. I'd go all hyper-local all the time.
A busted fence on Wardlaw? Stop the presses!
It may sound crass, but that's what people want to read. As the former editor of many a corporate newsletter, I can tell you that "births and marriages" is easily the most-read part of any newsletter, followed by "who got promoted."
Here's the big question: how do we make money off of this thing?
As any PR person knows, you get people to buy into your idea by showing what's in it for them, encouraging participation, making it easy to take action, and selling it as a concise idea that "makes sense."As any advertiser knows, you make money by getting eyeballs.
As I've said, I'd pay good money for a Winnipeg News iPhone app, and I'd be surprised if there wasn't a high-profile local advertiser willing to sponsor it, like FedEx does with the NY Times app.
There's some money right there!
And if I'm wrong, which I may very well be, I'll end with one more quote from Rosenberg's book, Say Everything.
"As the profession of journalism tries to rescue itself from the wreckage of print and rethink its digital future, this is where its most knowledgeable practitioners and most creative students are doing their hardest thinking."So, would anyone like to tell me where I'm wrong? Or right? Or what we could do to add to this? Or comment on what those dancers are doing in the White Wedding video? Please do!