Patch Latino will kick off with new sites in Southern California by the end of 2011. While embodying the traditional Patch model of local news, community and information, the sites will also offer dedicated coverage of topics of special interest to the Latino population. All editorial content on the sites will be in Spanish.
Archive for the 'journalism' Category
News outlets have had over a year now to figure out that Andrew Breitbart is a toxic asset. ABC decided to invite the discredited activist onto its election night coverage and the incident blew up in ABC’s face. NPR failed to correct much of its reporting (or show much skepticism) on Breitbart protege James O’Keefe’s misleadingly edited ACORN “pimp videos,” only to get later burned by an O’Keefe hack job. CNN decided it wanted to do a puff piece on O’Keefe to promote him, only to barely sidestep his plot to sexually harass one of its reporters. Dozens of news outlets ended up with egg on their faces when they trumpeted Breitbart’s video on Shirley Sherrod without any skepticism.
So forgive me if I find it a little humorous at this point to watch Breitbart reach into his underwear and fling shit at the Huffington Post after it decided that Breitbart deserved promotion on its coveted front page. At some point you just have to accept the media isn’t going to do its job by shunning those who spread misinformation and just sit back and enjoy the ride.
I first noticed the drumbeat for hyperlocal news sometime in 2007, though it likely originated sometime before that. The idea was that thousands of extremely profitable hyperlocal hubs would begin to pop up soon. Their profitability would come as a result of strong community engagement and hyper-targeted ads that cater to businesses and organizations who are often overlooked by bigger media properties.
Several years later we’re still seeing the assumption that this hyperlocal market is just waiting to mature, but we still don’t have many strong breakout examples of successful community sites. AOL has doubled down on the market with Patch but hasn’t yet seen any significant revenue from it. TBD downsized before it could see any major success. We hear about new non-profit community sites popping up with varying results, but certainly very few highly-profitable examples.
Michele McLellan has a good piece weighing all the various business models of community news sites, based on her interviews and surveys with the people who launched them. She goes to great length to break down the multiple revenue streams possible through community news, but there’s little doubt that many of them are labor intensive:
Corona del Mar Today: Syndicating content to local newspapers, advertising.
SF Public Press: Business services, events, donations, grants, membership, syndication.
Oswego County Today: Local and national advertising, sponsorships, web development and hosting.
Gapers Block: Local and national advertising, merchandise, grants.
Davidson News: Local advertising, business services, memberships.
New West: Local and national advertising, events, sponsorships.
Of course news sites aren’t the only ones aggressively moving into local: Google, Facebook, Foursquare, and any number of other companies are aggressively pursuing what they consider an untapped market. I can’t help but wonder if their superior technological skills may allow them to scoop this market out from under all these community sites; by their very definition these hyperlocal sites just don’t have the economy of scale (except with maybe Patch). Can you really generate enough revenue to sustain yourself from your local pizzeria?
Arianna Huffington’s response to NYT editor Bill Keller was swift and harsh. The digital ink had barely begun to dry on Bill Keller’s attack on aggregators before Huffington penned a response accusing Keller of outdated arguments and blatant disregard for reality — that reality being that Huffington Post is increasingly becoming a destination for original journalism, with an editorial staff over 150 (still way smaller than the New York Times news room, but nothing to scoff at). The rebuttal was apparently strong enough to cause Keller to defend his op-ed in a blog post, assuring us all he was writing partly in jest.
Jest or not, Huffington only waited a few more days to put her money where Keller’s mouth is. Today TechCrunch reports that the Huffington Post has hired away a 20-year veteran of the New York Times and LA Times to head HuffPo’s Culture and Entertainment section.
As TechCrunch notes, this hire acts not only as a symbol for the new and old media journalism turf wars, but also the war between content farms and traditional journalism:
On one side are things like Demand Media, The Aol Way and the seduction of cheap hackery that is designed simply to generate easy page views and to help investors to sleep at night. On the other side is stodgy, snobby, old-school journalism which needs to find a new online home if it’s to survive the decade. The latter carries with it the seduction of everything Woodward and Bernstein – and is the only way to really build a media franchise that stands for something and can demand Vanity Fair-like ad premiums.
No company represents this tug of war more ably than our overlords at Aol, to the point where sometimes the battle rages within a single soldier. No sooner had ad sales guru turned CEO Tim Armstrong laid out his SEO-centric “Way”, and renamed the company’s media properties as “towns” ruled by “mayors” than he pulled an apparent 180, acquiring the Huffington Post and naming its founder Arianna Huffington as head of all content.
AOL seems to be moving in a direction where the journalism and content farms can co-exist, complimenting each other, whereas NYT doubles down on quality journalism. Not that this is necessarily bad for NYT, but it doesn’t do much to diversify its assets.
When AOL announced that it would purchase the Huffington Post, it was widely assumed it would shut down its Politics Daily site because of the overlap in subject matter. Today we learn that AOL has laid off 200 employees, a large bulk of them in the editorial department. Kara Swisher reports that this is, in part, because of the Huffington Post buy.
But Politics Daily certainly isn’t the only overlap in coverage. After all, Huffington Post has long attempted to transform itself into a general news organization similar to a major national newspaper. It has sections in technology, environmentalism, tech, and lifestyle. AOL already has web properties that cover each of these subjects. With Arianna at its helm, will the Huffington Post sections get priority over the other AOL properties? If AOL’s style blog already gets more traffic than Huffington Post’s style section, does this mean she will give priority to the blog with the most eyeballs? Will bloggers who aren’t performing well in terms of pageviews receive the brunt of the pink slips?
It’ll be interesting to see the fallout over the next few days as bloggers announce their unemployment.
UPDATE: It looks as if many of the staffers laid off were from AOL news verticals rather than from Huffington’s own staff.
Vadim Lavrusik interviewed reporters and editors at NPR, Al Jazeera, the New York Times, and other outlets on how they use Facebook to find and cultivate sources:
At National Public Radio, its 1.5+ million-member Facebook community is invaluable for finding sources, said Eyder Peralta, an associate producer on NPR’s social media desk.
“There hasn’t been any query that we haven’t gotten good sources for,” Peralta said. From finding high school dropouts to people who have recently been laid off from their jobs, Peralta said the organization regularly posts inquiries for sources as status updates on its page and receives hundreds of valuable responses. “We’re using it as a megaphone, and people have always been extremely helpful.”
In the wake of Dave Weigel’s resignation from the Washington Post after a number of his emails were leaked to online news outlets, dozens of bloggers and journalists penned posts honoring and defending Weigel’s journalistic integrity. One such defense was written by Julian Sanchez for The Atlantic’s website and is notable not because it’s different from all the other posts but because of its similarity. Like many of his colleagues, Sanchez began with a disclosure that he knew Weigel personally. “Like [Atlantic writer Megan McArdle] and most of my fellow guestbloggers, I’m fortunate to count Dave Weigel–until this morning a blogger covering the conservative movement for the Washington Post–as a friend,” he wrote. Sanchez, like Weigel, is relatively young at 31. As with many of the other writers who covered the debacle, the Atlantic blogger noted that Weigel is a new manifestation of journalist who melds traditional reporting practices with opinion, arguing that “there was something sterile and counterproductive in a set of professional norms that conflated fairness and objectivity with the sort of personal paucity of opinions that could never be expected of any engaged observer with a functioning brainstem.” But what I found to be most interesting is the fact that both Sanchez and Weigel are alums of Reason Magazine, a libertarian publication with writers based in California and DC. Sanchez, who previously wrote about tech public policy for Ars Technica, is currently a research fellow at the libertarian Cato Institute and Weigel has consistently admitted to having libertarian leanings both before and after his hiring at the Post.
Perhaps I’m grasping at straws here but in the weeks leading up to Weigel’s resignation and afterward I’ve noticed a growing cadre of these libertarian journalists in DC who graduated from places like Reason or Cato, write for right-leaning publications that don’t exactly fit their social ideology, or report for traditional DC publications like The Hill or National Journal. The one time I met Weigel personally (only a few days before his emails were leaked, coincidentally) it was through a libertarian journalist friend and many of the public blog posts and private emails I’ve had with other reporters reflect this trend. Without devolving into vast conspiracy theories about libertarian plots to infiltrate our media, I couldn’t help but wonder if there is a rising force of young libertarian journalists in DC, a trend that would be interesting considering recent polls on Americans’ views on the word “libertarian.”
When I spoke to Sanchez, he wasn’t exactly convinced that my idea had any merit. Before I even had a chance to call he wrote that he wasn’t “sure there’s a real there there” in an email. “What you’re actually mapping here is not so much a specifically libertarian thing, it’s that all these people — Ezra [Klein], [Reason editor Matt Welch], me, and Dave — I think it’s almost secondary to the fact that we’re all friends and in that sense ideology is almost irrelevant,” he told me in a phone interview.
For Sanchez, the trend in DC journalism circles is less a story of political ideology and more about the meteoric rise of young reporters who are building their own personal brands. “It used to be you had to put someone through the paces, and you had to cover dog shows and town council meetings,” he said. “You figure out who through this laborious vetting process should be writing for the Post or whatever. And what you’ve got now are a bunch of people who were able to start writing and it turned out they could build a huge audience just writing stuff. You didn’t have to go through this whole rigmarole to figure out who was going to be able to build that audience. They just did it.”
Still, he thought that perhaps the growing number of public figures who identify as libertarian is rooted in a “generational divide” that represents a maturation in the ideology. “I think anyone who self identifies as a libertarian who came up in the Reagan era has a residual sense of identification with the right while young 30 something libertarians whose political thoughts were formed under Bush don’t have an iota of that feeling,” Sanchez explained. “If you look at libertarian columnists from the 80s and 90s, it’s all kind of libertarianism 101. The focus is on having an elaborately consistent set of views, and there’s a kind of siege mentality. The mission was to be conscious of what it was. Now there’s a sense that we can just talk about it as recognized members of the conversation. There’s a kind of engagement with a mainstream political dialog in a way that there wasn’t in the 80s. Back then libertarians were sort of sniping from the outside.”
Timothy Lee also felt that there wasn’t much to my libertarian dot connecting. Lee is a former writer for Cato who went on to freelance for different news outlets before embarking on a grad degree at Princeton. Unsurprisingly, he joined the chorus of Weigel supporters after the resignation and included the obligatory friendship disclosure with his blog post.
“I think what’s happening is that they’re part of a broader movement of young journalists,” he said in a phone interview. “They’re just part of that community that includes people of different ideological persuasions. Their personal relationships lead to linking and reading each other’s works and cause them to drive the conversation among a certain part of the blogosphere.”
But if Weigel leaned libertarian, an ideology that is sometimes more closely aligned to the right than the left (at least on non-social issues), why was his hiring to the Post met with so much suspicion from the right? After his hiring, the conservative media watchdog blog Newsbusters published a piece questioning Weigel’s conservative credentials and many conservative blogs danced on his grave when he announced his resignation.
My friend Eric Pfeiffer, a libertarian who has had staff writing positions everywhere from the National Review to the Washington Times, said this distrust stems from an oversensitivity of conservatives to how the media covers them. “Weigel copped to that in the Big Government piece” — a kind of mea culpa post published after his resignation — “saying he was guilty of trying to play strategist often times when he was doing those interviews,” Pfeiffer told me. “In fairness to him, that’s to some degree what I had to do when I would talk to people because the best way to get a source to cooperate is to kind of bond with them, to make them think you’re sympathetic, or at least understanding of their cause. I don’t know how true it is on the left because I’ve covered them a lot less, but it’s so true on the right, because they — and you can quote me on this — when you cover the right, your role is just as much playing the role of therapist as reporter. They want you to like them. They want you to understand them. And it really gets old fast. I think that probably caused a lot of his frustration. It’s not what all reporters think when they signed up. I think Capitol Hill Republicans are more savvy, but movement conservatives I dealt with basically wanted to be held and coddled more than they wanted to be actually challenged or pressed.”
But in the end, it was Weigel’s political malleability that helped his career, even if it led to his departure from the Post.
“I think part of what hurt Dave is that he’s more ideologically flexible, whereas if he was more rigid he wouldn’t be looking for a job right now,” Pfeiffer said. “But then again he wouldn’t have really risen to the prominence he has and gotten the job in the first place without that flexibility. I think his ability to criticize the same people he’s covering should be seen as an asset, not as a liability. But that’s not what the DC media establishment wants.”