RYAN C. TUCK: Newspapers Respond to Daunting Challenges
Check out Tuck's Blog
Want to see the end of the newspaper industry?
Go to poynter.org and search for the "Epic" video. This thing came out two years ago, and its doomsday forecast can scare us in the news business to death. Basically, it says we'll all be made extinct by Google-like customized content systems that totally cater to people's every changing preference. That's supposedly scheduled to happen within 10 years.
Don't believe it. For one thing, you can already see how the news business -- including The Pilot -- is evolving to catch up to drastic changes in consumer habits.
The competition is intense, to be sure. Nearly two blogs are created every second, according to Technorati.com, a blog tracking system. Citizen journalists are mobilizing everywhere, creating online news communities without regard to geographical boundaries or formal training. People want news -- and they want it now. Several high-profile journalists have quit their day jobs to start online-only news mediums, which have seen success in many developing areas.
But newspapers are following suit with their own blogs and revamped online operations. In a kill-or-be-killed world, they have to. The success of the Drudge Report alone shows that credibility is fast becoming a second consideration to immediacy.
USA Today recently ran a profile on the ever-growing blogosphere. "At its best, the blogosphere represents the ultimate in free speech by giving voice to millions," Laura Parker wrote.
With some free time, enough enthusiasm and a keyboard, anyone can become a citizen journalist, leaking stories onto their blogs and Web sites before more traditional mediums.
We have 11 bloggers here at The Pilot, all of whom do varying levels of reporting outside our regular news process.
"The blogosphere is also the Internet's Wild West, a rapidly expanding frontier town with no sheriff," Parker says.
And that's where smaller communities and newspapers, in particular, are facing identity crises.
Monday night, there was a problem with the 911 operating system in Moore, among other counties. Pilot blogger Ben Nelson had an account of the development on his blog a few hours before any other newspaper -- and a full day and change before The Pilot's Wednesday print edition.
As the Pinecrest football situation has continued to spin and turn, the Pilot's blogs, among other message boards, have been filled with commentary and demands for action.
The Moore County school system has watched the commentary but largely elected not to respond -- a position many of us consider foolish.
Elected officials and public bodies everywhere are slowly recognizing the power that these online communities wield. They must be taken into consideration. These are the public square protests and town hall discussions of our generation.
An autopsy report was released Monday on a young man who died unexpectedly last month. ThePilot.com offered a Web brief on the matter within hours. But the investigating police department asked that it be removed, saying that the report might damage the case. We complied, but only briefly and reluctantly.
Streaming, 24/7 news reports are affecting every aspect of the newsmaking process. Journalists are having to become more available and diverse in their reporting methods to maintain their readership. Public officials are more open to attacks and critique and are being forced to become more diverse in their own communication.
And the public is weighing more options in the marketplace of ideas.
It's not just the metropolitan markets anymore. The new news revolution has reached li'l ol' communities like ours.
Poynter's "Epic" prediction deserves to be taken seriously, Still, if community newspapers, the bedrock of our industry, are able to harness these new mediums and use them toward their own mission of accurate storytelling, they will prevail.
It's what we're looking to do here at The Pilot. We don't have it all figured out, and we're making mistakes. But we're not about to give in to extinction. Stay tuned.
Contact Ryan Tuck at 693-2507 or by e-mail at ryan@ thepilot. com.
More like this story