Kara Swisher, Arianna Huffington, Kevin

by francine Hardaway on May 2, 2007


Kara Swisher, Arianna Huffington, Kevin Rose and Alan Citron are talking about where news is going. Clearly it’s going online, but how? And what are the implications of that?

I’ve never laid eyes on Arianna Huffington before, though I’ve been reading Huffpo forever (since it started). She says, of course, that in the forseeable future it’s going to be both print and online. Arianna just hired both a traditional journalist, and Jay Rosen, a citizen journalist.

Citron: Gossip sites have taken off like crazy. TMZ has a hard core journalism focus, which may sound ironic, but its staff knows how to dig, to find the scandal. TMZ treats the celebrity world like it would treat any other kind of news — get in and dig to break news. TMZ broke the Alec Baldwin tape. Luckily, celebrities always do stupid things and provide TMZ with information.

The Mel Gibson scandal exploded on the web, too, via TMZ.

Swisher:Big newspapers decide what to feature and what not to feature. How does this relate to online media?

Rose: Digg lets the users decide what to feature. Subjective to who’s on the site at any given time — different stories appear at different times. Digg has a symbiotic relationship with traditional media, because it depends on it for Digg’s existence.

The panelists are talking about the issue of how much control to exert over what people say. Arianna pulls hate-generating comments when they get too virulent: @Cheney: “Why can’t we get a good suicide bomber when we need one.” Their bloggers can post any time of the day or night, but editors decide who to feature, who to send to the home page, who to send to Yahoo.Digg pulls racial hate stories or stories that violate the terms of use, despite their commitment to free speech. If it links to something that’s illegal, they don’t allow it up there. The community moderates the comments, however.

Arianna’s experiment on citizen journalism will be part of Jay Rosen’s site at NYU. The editors will still decide what is interesting.

Digg has certain users who act as a filter for people in reading news, much as certain newspapers used to.

Arianna: Bill Moyers’ documentary on Iraq shows how the mainstream media let the people down in reporting on Iraq, and helped the growth of onlline and citizen journalism. Huffpo is launching five new verticals not on politics: living (with Willow Bay as editor) and four others that respond to what readers have asked for.

Often the mainstream media will decide a story is not newsworthy and drop it. But Bloggers are obsessive about stories. They pursue and pursue them until there’s a break. Bloggers develop stories and provide a narrative so that apparently small remarks become part of a larger story that has legs. Stories that broke because of the obsessiveness of the bloggers would be Mel Gibson’s racist remarks, Trent Lott’s remarks, Gonzales’ firing of the Attorneys General. These all came from bloggers putting the pieces of the story together like a puzzle after the mainstream media dropped it. And then these stories resurface in the mainstream media.

Alan Citron is saying that the mainstream media has to embrace change. The Mel Gibson story broke on TMZ and Citron called his friends in the MSM to tell them it was serious. But they all said to him “how could that have happened if YOU reported it?” They didn’t even believe it although the police report was on the web site. Eventually, Citron’s friends at MSM HAD to follow up and report it.

Concusions? Only that the model for the new journalism will be just like that of the old: ads.

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