Blogs and big media

Blogs and big media
: As Howard Sherman puts it, another one bites the dust: Now Time Inc. has instructed freelancer Joshua Kucera to stop posting to his personal weblog:

My editors have demanded that I stop posting to this site until the war ends. And they pay the bills, so what can I do. Thanks everyone for reading, and I hope to be back here soon. Peace, Josh.

Just this morning in Matthew Rose’s Wall Street Journal piece (below), a Time spokesperson said — wisely, it seemed: “ only asks that Kucera file to Time first, then he can blog away.” Oh, well.

Add that to CNN’s Kevin Sites being told to stop blogging by CNN.

We smell a sad trend.

Now I’m very lucky. I’m a big-media guy and a I blog for work and personally. I’m lucky to work for enlightened bosses who understand the power of this medium.

What’s needed here is some education and enlightenment for other big-media types.

I have heard their fears.

They fear that a weblogger won’t do his or her real work. My answer: You’re right. You still have to manage the person. But a weblog can also bring both of you benefits: The weblogger can find new story ideas out there on the web and from the audience and that can enrich the service you give your readers. The more your reporters listen to the audience, the better reporters they will be.

They fear that webloggers will publish things on the web without editing. My answer: You’re right. You could edit posts, but that’s a pain and it detracts from the immediacy of blogging. So my advice is: If you trust them to report for you, then you probably should trust them to blog. But if they mess up, stomp on them. Also know that they will make typos; I do all the time (but my audience copy-edits me!).

They fear that webloggers will point to things on the web that are not reliable and not journalistic. My answer: You’re right. Just the other day, I pointed to a site called Pave France. I’ve pointed frequently to drivel from Iran. I make fun of Michael Moore and point to him. But that’s what the Web is about: You hear the buzz, good and bad, from the people. And the audience is wise enough to judge the difference.

They fear that webloggers will link to competitors. My answer: You’re right again! They will. That’s what the Web is about, linking. But if you provide a good service with those links, readers will return to you.

I say that the wise thing to do would be to create weblogs for these energetic contributors and see what happens. If they do it under the company banner, I’ll bet they’ll do it carefully and well (and if they don’t, you’re still the boss). And you will get new content, new perspectives, new voices, new audiences.

This isn’t as easy as it looks. Companies like CNN and Time are properly concerned with protecting their credibility, their reputation, their brands. That makes them cautious. But I predict that competition will open this up. If Newsweek blogs, Time will. If FoxNews blogs, CNN will. Give it time.