The New Daily?

When I was going to college for journalism in the early 90s, the desktop publishing revolution was just reaching its peak, and the Internet was just coming into use, which meant there was a new opportunity to combine the two to create something that is rarely done, a new Daily Newspaper. This was done in various spots around the U.S. and I happened to work at one called The Conway Daily Sun during the summers so this is how I know. These were free tabloid-sized dailies for small communities which featured a few reporters writing up local news like school board meetings and the daily police log combined with lots and lots of AP news filler. The syndicated services like news and comics and photos weren't cheap I'm sure, and neither was running the huge printing presses, but these could easily be offset by insane "column-inches" charges for advertising and classifieds, the real money maker.

My boss at the time Mark - who with his partner had started the daily I was working at only a few years earlier on the backs of a couple Macs and an ISDN connection to AP - told me once while I was working there something like, "Starting a successful new businesss in the U.S. is something special. Most businesses don't survive. But to start a new newspaper? That's something really special." And he was right. (Though I ended up not pursuing a career in Journalism, I learned a lot from those guys I use every day.)

Skip forward a decade or so, and now we are in the midst of a new publishing boom - but this time squarely centered on the Web. The Desktop Publishing revolution has been replaced with the Personal Website Publishing revolution, and now individuals like myself can have a "circulation", i.e. daily readers, equal to that of the entire paper I used to work at. So why isn't my weblog worth what a daily newspaper with a similar circulation is worth then? Well, besides the fact that I'm just one guy writing in my spare time, I'm basically what a newspaper would call a "columnist" right? I write my opinions daily, and sometimes do a bit of research, but I'm hardly doing any of the hard work that many journalists do on a daily basis. The representative values of this blog vs. a real newspaper reflects this. There's a lot of drudgery in running a daily paper, but with that drudgery comes real value. You haven't lived until you've been on the local "sewers and refuse commitee beat" or something like that. It's not sexy, but it's valuable work nevertheless.

Anyways, it's thus no surprise to read about Newsvine's pending launch, which is supposedly going to combine AP news wire reports with specialists "citizen journalists" covering specific topics. Sounds neat - as Mike says in the post, "Newsvine is a news company, not a Web 2.0 company." I hope he really means it, actually, as there's a lot more to be done besides just a blog-news mashup. I don't know what they're doing exactly, but the "community news source" is a proven business model and an uptapped need in the current web. There's lots and lots of towns, neighborhoods and cities out there that have a need for someone to keep track of the local school boards, and high-school sports scores and all that stuff, and write up daily reports. Forget all this "social news" crap where lazy people read a bunch of news sources, add a bit of uninteresting, usually uniformed opinion or analysis and throw it out there as a story. There's a real need for professional journalism, but published with a blog-like versatility, accessibility and accountability. We don't need more columnists - we need more journalists, willilng to get their hands dirty, keep their opinions to themselves as best as possible and help inform the rest of us of what's going on in the places we live.

If Mike and co. don't fill that need, I'm sure someone else will.


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