Useful/useless

Useful/useless
: Too much news is useless. I don’t mean it’s not important, but it’s useless in our daily lives.

News is rarely judged on that scale: useful vs. important. I think it’s a scale we should use more — a scale that will matter more as more people come online and reshape their definition of news.

Too often, useful news is belittled as “service,” a perjorative in some halls of journalism. But the truth is, when I’m looking for a new cell phone — and I am — Gizmodo is filled with useful — and thus, to me, important — news. In the community sites I work with, when a local ballet school announces that the tutus are in, that’s news; it’s both useful and important to a bunch of little ballerinas.

So now judge the debate about whether bloggers and community bloggers will create news. They will. But it will often be news of a different definition. When somebody gets that new Treo 600 phone I’ve been panting after and tells me what they really think of it, that will be terribly important news to me. When a blogger in my town tells me something stupid happening on the planning board that’s going to affect my property, that’s news to me (and I heard that news the other night from a guy I then convinced to blog — for the paper had not reported this news).

: So now look at the good questions Jay Rosen asks in his Merrill Brown interview (see post below):

Is journalism as a profession ready to open itself to ideas coming at it from the new horizon? Is it open to the people who are not journalists and who suddenly have more information power? Does journalism value its own intellectual capital?…

But the radically new thing is that the people at home can be producers of content. This seems to me a different puzzle, and trickier. You could have your eye on new competitors in the industry, and overlook entirely that the industry itself has competitors: the great volunteer army of content providers emerging on the Web. You can tell yourself,

  • http://www.timporter.com/firstdraft Tim Porter

    Jeff …
    Language is another way of determining whether “news” is useful — if you can’t read it, then it’s of no use at all.
    That’s why traditional U.S. media companies are turning to Spanish-language newspapers as a means to reach Hispanics, a 40-million-member market, who prefer their news in Spanish, not English. The launch of Al Dia yesterday by the Dallas Morning News is the latest example.
    Spanish-language publications, as well as other non-traditional efforts like the RedEye in Chicago, show that some newspapers are beginning to get it — that “news” can mean different things to different people, that engaging a class is now more important than publishing to a mass.
    As I said today over on First Draft: “News” doesn’t need to be delivered on a 13.5-by-23.5-inch page. “News” doesn’t’ have to be in English. “News” doesn’t’ need the phrase “according to” in the first paragraph. “News” doesn’t even need to be “news” at all – it can be information or interaction, commentary or comics, written by professionals or contributed by readers.
    Cheers,
    Tim

  • ….a moment with Easycure

    Jeff,
    Even your own blog gets a little long-winded at times. I automatically start skipping through some of the longer articles……
    ….maybe it’s just me. I’m in a rush….
    AArrrggghhhh!

  • http://bbowman.blogspot.com Bill Bowman

    Jeff,
    “…it will be demanded by the audience …”
    Any news organization which does not believe that phrase will not be functioning in the future. We in the news business have to accept the fact that it’s no longer possible to give people what we think they need, we have to give them what they tell us they want.

  • http://tommangan.net/printsthechaff tom

    I’m convinced newspapers need to zone by content rather than geography. Online, they can. But won’t.