Way back when (2005), the LA Times tried an experiment with wikis without really understanding what wikis are all about. It looks like the Cleveland Plains Dealer has done the same thing with a four-reader political blog.
Jay Rosen at PressThink has a must-read set of “rules” for any traditional news organization that is considering formalizing readers into bloggers.
Jay focuses on the concept of transparency. What I don’t understand is why online media aren’t using hypertext as a means to provide transparency for every by-lined story. This isn’t the first time I’ve expressed this lament, and I’m certain it won’t be the last. But here it goes.
With the web, we are no longer constrained by physical limits (inches in newspapers, minutes in TV and radio). Thus there is absolutely no reason not to hyperlink a reporter’s name (or a columnist) to a bio that explains why they are qualified to report on this topic and where they might have bias.
For example, when someone extols the virtues of (or pans) a new product by Microsoft or Apple, I want to know a) how long they have been a consumer/analyst of these products and b) how many of “the other guy’s” products they have used. I want to know if they own stock in either company. In the case of a major newspaper columnist endorsing or panning a candidate, I want to know the connections. Think Robert Novak at the time of Valerie Plame: who knew of his past (negative) association with Republican presidential campaigns?
This is no different from the type of transparency that Jay outlines — and the fact that it’s not used (shout if you’ve seen it anywhere) speaks volumes about where publishers and producers see themselves relative to their readers/watchers.
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