Death of Newspapers – Part II : Breaking the Union-Tribune Habit

by on October 17, 2008 · 4 comments

in Economy, Media

Welcome to the New Age of Information

So, if you’ve been reading your daily newspaper (or watching network news) under the illusion that the stories presented are somehow vetted, fair, or balanced, it’s time to wake up and smell the coffee.  The first step of the rest of your media life should be to stop buying the Union Tribune.  Aside from the fact that it’s a waste of money and leaves a huge carbon footprint, the local daily has had too large a role in defining the public conversation about San Diego for too long.  Just say no to all their foolishness.

The next step in your media life and the “New Information Age” is complicated by the fact that there are a bewildering array of choices in how you get information (hardware), where you get you information (platforms), and what kind of information you end up getting (content).  The bad news is that, no matter what you chose in the way of hardware (PC, Blackberry, cell-phone, E-Book, etc), it’s likely to be obsolete before the next Presidential election cycle wraps up.  The good news is that all these gadgets seem to be evolving in a direction that will end up with a common (or at least more similar) device that includes both new and old media.  Personally, I’m holding out for the Dick Tracy style wrist appliance that can also become a fashion statement.   

In the meantime, a vast army of media visionaries are out there experimenting and developing platforms and content.  Following are my (mostly random) choices for websites that I’ve found either useful or interesting in news gathering.  Many of these websites are essentially aggregators, drawing content from all over the world that their creators think may be of interest to visitors. (The Rag has a regular list of local sites—scroll down on the right hand side of this page to see them.)


The Old Media on the web:   A very good selection of stories, a fair amount of original reportage that’s easy to use.  The downside is that the Times inclination to protect its sources and contacts to the exclusion of the need of the people to actually know what’s going on. Nowhere is this more clearly illustrated than in the paper’s role in the propaganda build up to the invasion of Iraq.  One of the most aggressive companies in terms of translating its content to the web, the Post has video, audio and multimedia reportage on a broad range of issues.  It’s not bad to look at, but has suffered from a decline in original content lately.  The Post also drank heavily from the propaganda trough of the last several administrations. They do have a terrific on-line crossword puzzle.  If the Post and the Times have functioned as the Bush administration’s sidekicks, McClatchy has found itself a home as the maverick of the mainstream media.  Its resources are limited, and it’s visually dull, but they do have a tradition of posting well-researched stories on topics not covered by the big boys.  The TV network that the fear mongers love to hate is actually really good at providing news and perspective that isn’t US-centric. They won’t win any prizes for sexiness, but the site is nicer looking than most.  And they really don’t hate America.  Remember when the daily newspaper had stories from around the world? Science stories? Human interest stories that didn’t involve Paris Hilton? The BBC still has all those stories and much more.  Very rich in content. The point of view is more euro-centric than the US press, but generally, as the British government has been as of late, pro-Washington.    The Christian Science church sponsored paper may not be the best place to glean medical information, but it does offer up a decent array of stories from around the world that you’re likely not to see elsewhere. (Or at least until somebody else steals the idea). A busy front page, be sure to scroll down for the interesting stuff.  So much content, so little time. And so hard to find on the page.  None-the-less, there is a great deal more original content here than you’ll find on many a major newspaper’s web site. A great site to visit when you got a little time to kill.


Newer Media Websites:  Original investigative reporting funded by a foundation.  The premise seems to be that somebody on the web needs to do some original reporting cause all the old style media dinosaurs are gonna die. Good stuff when they’re having a good day, if a little dry.  One of the original on-line publications.  It’s survived thanks to spicy content and the occasional actual opinion.  It’s now owned by the Washington Post.  It’s easy to dis Slate because so much of its content gets hidden in the clunky format, but if you dig far enough, it’s there.  A new media site funded by an old media mogul. If you like Washington politics, this could be the site for you, as long as you don’t have any yearnings for something beyond Washington politics.  They’ve got it all: blogs, reportage, a print version, video, yada, yada.  Another new media site with a non-profit business plan.  They say they aim for “snap-crackle-pop” with their reporting.  It’s good but not great.  Visually very clean, if you like web sites that look like newspapers.  More star power than all the others guys combined.  Thousands of bloggers (including OBRag staff), celebrities, links to everything, ever changing. It’s going through some growing pains as they add sections (already a local one for Chicago).  The lack of focus is the focus, it seems. And you have to wonder what they’re gonna do after Obama gets elected.  A progressive old media site that left its carbon footprint back in the 20th Century and made the transition to the new media.  It looks good, reads well and is easy to use.  Tina Brown’s brand new rockin’, sockin’, all-the-news-that-fits web site is brand new and brimming with attitude. It’s totally visual and absolutely sensationalist.  Global Voices aggregates and curates the global blogosphere – shining light on places and people other media often ignore. Don’t look for hard hitting news here; look for hard hitting humanity trying to express itself.   This website (Congressional Quarterly) should be placed under the “old media” heading, except that it’s so good at making massive amounts of data accessible that it –as far as I’m concerned—sets the standard for everybody else.  Plus, really good journalists that have been dumped via media cutbacks seem to gravitate here.  This is the newspaper locator page for the Internet Public Library.  Wanna check out the scene in Botswana?  No problem: two clicks

and you’re there reading the local online paper.  It’s useful from time to time.


Last, but not least, there are a number of ways that you can build your own news pages and have them waiting whenever you venture online.  By “personalizing” the Google News page, you can harness the power of the world’s biggest search engine.  But it’s just like any other search, so a little practice with the search terms may be needed before you start getting acceptable results.

If there are web sites that you think we should be surfing, please let us know in the comments section.

Next time in this series: Quit Dreaming! There is no such thing as objective news.

This was first posted on the OB Rag blog.

{ 4 comments… read them below or add one }

Sebastian Ruiz October 17, 2008 at 11:48 am

Great post! As a reporter learning how things really work in the world this article provided some useful resources. Doug, whomever you are, we should talk. I’d like to pick your brain about the state of mass media, journalism and it’s future. That is, if it has one recognizable to the Dinos. And what it would it look like?


OB Joe October 17, 2008 at 5:24 pm

Thanks to Porter, I just added all his suggested sites to my own personal blog and news role. ‘course OB Rag is up there at the top. wouldn’t miss it. what other sites do you guys suggest?


dougbob October 18, 2008 at 2:02 pm

follow up….there will be more about the direction of the new media in part four (and five, if necessary) of this series. hang in there, sebastian. we’ll talk when I get done with this series.


Rich K. October 19, 2008 at 8:36 pm

Great list! Especially appreciate the Internet Public Library link; access to online newspapers around the globe!


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