Thursday, March 29, 2012

Some thoughts on alternative media and its role

As a long-time follower of (and believer in) alternative newspapers, I'm heartened by a column in Baltimore's City Paper in which its editor says in a column summing up 35 years, that his paper needs to define itself better.

That's the secret to alternative media, how you define yourself. The Shepherd Express can't define itself as being the not-Journal Sentinel, because there is lots of competition out there doing just that. The more alternative media defines itself on its own terms, the better positioned it will be to take a constructive role in the vital job of disseminating information.

And I still remember a Marquette student when we were discussing "alternative media" who said, "The Journal Sentinel is my alternative media." It's a great point

Here's what happened when a Seattle newspaper went only-only

One of the continuing stories of old v. new media is that of the Seattle Post-Intelligencer, once a Pulitzer-winning newspaper, now living only as a website,

It's been three years since the newspaper went online-only, and its story demonstrates just what can happen when a newspaper goes online-only. The short version of the story is that it immediately loses readers/viewers -- lots of them. And, of course, it loses staff -- lots of staff.

But, the bottom line is that it still exists, even if only a shell of its former self.

An apology from Spike Lee, and a few thoughts on ethics

It was a short little news item this morning. Spike Lee apologized for retweeting an item giving George Zimmerman's address. The problem, he said, was that it wasn't the Trayvon Martin shooter's address but that of an elderly couple. "I Deeply Apologize To The McClain Family For Retweeting Their Address. It Was A Mistake. Please Leave The McClain's In Peace. Justice In Court," Lee tweeted.

The much bigger problem than the fear Lee's tweet caused among the McClain family, who received threats, is that the new media allows amateurs to spread news, sometimes without thinking. There's a group that's offered a bounty for Zimmerman, and I'm sure there are many people who want him dead. Unfortunately this is America today, which means many of them are armed.

Journalists are taught first to get the facts right, and second to put their messages in an ethical context. Lee -- and the millions of others using new media and social media to spread messages -- are far too often inclined to write first and think later.