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Newspaper Asks Bloggers for Help

San Jose Mercury News: Wanted: Los Gatos bloggers. We’re looking for community bloggers in Los Gatos who can write about such things as events in town, school fundraisers, the score of the latest football game. We need someone who would love a forum for reflecting on the latest buzz story in town, or even write things to do for runners, kids, moms, retirees or other groups in town.

This could be a fairly big deal, especially if it means the paper will do more than just highlight what the bloggers do (i.e. pay them for what they do).

But the very fact that the paper has recognized what has been obvious for years — that the bloggers and others running websites in a community are able to supplement, and in some cases replace, what the newspaper has been doing, or failing to do.

Every newspaper should be a portal to the bloggers, Flickr and YouTube posters and others who are creating media about the towns and neighborhoods in the circulation area. That so few understand this is testament to the industry’s continuing cluelessness.

The Merc is owned by a company that has, from all available evidence, vastly more concern for profit than journalism — a company that appears not to see the value of excellence as a business proposition. So if this move is essentially to get more “content” for less money, it’s a loser.

But to the extent that the Mercury News is recognizing and helping to promote a wider and more diverse media ecosystem, this is a potentially noteworthy move.

9 Comments on “Newspaper Asks Bloggers for Help”

  1. #1 Seth Finkelstein
    on May 8th, 2008 at 3:53 pm

    What’s so revolutionary about (unpaid) freelancing?

    If the ad was “We’re looking for [local stringers] in Los Gatos who can write about such things as events in town, school fundraisers, the score of the latest football game. We need someone who would love a forum for reflecting on the latest buzz story in town, or even write things to do for runners, kids, moms, retirees or other groups in town.” – would this be greeted with a reaction of “This could be a fairly big deal, especially if it means the paper will do more than just highlight what the [local stringers] do (i.e. pay them for what they do).”

    What makes “blogger” such a super-fantastic-amazing-THIS-IS-BIG word, if “stringer” or “freelancer” is functionally equivalent in the context?

  2. #2 Delia
    on May 8th, 2008 at 6:49 pm

    re: “if it means the the paper will do more than just highlight what the bloggers do (i.e. pay them for what they do)”

    the big problem I see with this is that they have a strong financial incentive NOT to pay them as long as they can get away with it — the vast majority of enterprises trying to “save the news” (for their own financial gain) would collapse if “the suckers” that make these projects possible would just wake up and stop volunteering.

    Delia

    P.S. Are these people really fools, cretins, with low-intelligence or low-self esteem? Of course not… (they are just naives that don’t realize they are being exploited) D.

  3. #3 Delia
    on May 8th, 2008 at 7:01 pm

    but … hey! at least they are not *paying* for “the priviledge”… (like some conference goers do… ) D.

  4. #4 Jon Garfunkel
    on May 8th, 2008 at 8:37 pm

    I’ve got nothing to add. I’m watching a movie about the real world of journalism — The Devil Wears Prada.

  5. #5 Jason Preston
    on May 12th, 2008 at 11:32 am

    One of the things that I think the SJMN needs to be careful of, as does any news organization, is to protect the “integrity” (and I use that word loosely) of the work that their paid journalists do in comparison to the contributions from unpaid bloggers.

    Part of the problem that newspapers are now facing is that consumers aren’t seeing the value of well-researched journalism, because the end-product isn’t well differentiated. If blogs are free, and there’s not much difference between blogs and “news” (I mean, they’re on the same web site, right?) then why pay for “news?”

    And suddenly journalists are all out of a paying gig.

  6. #6 Tish Grier
    on May 14th, 2008 at 5:37 pm

    Seth makes a good point: what *really* is the Merc looking for? And that it sounds more like they’re looking for individuals to fill in for the journalists they’ve lost.

    Now, if they are willing to pay–and pay fairly–for this work, then great! But, I won’t hold my breath on that one. There’s loads of precedent (and loads of kvetching among unionized writers) that the pay for “blogging” and internet writing jobs (which is what this sounds like vs. a “newspaper” job) is woefully low. And that’s pretty much true.

    Further, what might happen to the content put on these newspaper sites? What if someone wants to use that content (pictures perhaps?) on a site of his/her own–does the newspaper own the content? And what’s wrong with just aggregating this content and sharing traffic with local bloggers?

  7. #7 Citizen Journalism
    on May 14th, 2008 at 6:37 pm

    [...] While I’ve been pondering, things keep popping into my field of awareness about citizen journalism. Just the other day, I found “The Center for Citizen Media” site, and then today, after ages of not checking my Google Reader, I came across this: San Jose Mercury News: Wanted: Los Gatos bloggers. We’re looking for community bloggers in Los Gatos who can write about such things as events in town, school fundraisers, the score of the latest football game. We need someone who would love a forum for reflecting on the latest buzz story in town, or even write things to do for runners, kids, moms, retirees or other groups in town. — Center for Citizen Media:  Newspaper Asks Bloggers for Help [...]

  8. #8 Solving the blogger payment problem « John Wilpers: The power of partnering
    on May 22nd, 2008 at 2:27 pm

    [...] (and other media) paying non-staff bloggers for their contributions is being debated on the Center for Citizen Media Blog and only Trish Grier gets it right in her [...]

  9. #9 John Wilpers
    on May 22nd, 2008 at 2:32 pm

    Trish has it right: Newspapers should just aggregate and point off.

    Newspapers don’t need to own or create everything.

    Newspapers can serve a much more valuable role by presenting ALL the sources of information about a particular topic. We can save readers a ton of time by collecting all the best stuff from wherever, excerpt it, and point off.

    Organize it by geography (neighborhood) or theme/passion.

    And then, what newspapers are LOATH to do, put the excerpt and link NOT in a blog ghetto but on the appropriate web page AND publish an excerpt in appropriate section of the newspaper itself! That kind of promotion is absolutely necessary to raise awareness and drive traffic.