: The interview and the story turned out OK, but neither the interview nor the story started off right.
I got a call from a freelancer working on a story for the Online Journalism Review — Sarah Lai Stirland — about community and media sites.
She started off telling me that her editor’s premise was that community was over, it was dying, it was yesterday.
I blew my top: Tell your editor he’s full of crap, I said, making a less judicious choice of words. Proceeded to say just how full he is. At my company’s sites, we get more than a third of our traffic from community; we get our most loyal audience from community; we get great content from community. Your editor doesn’t know what the hell he’s talking about, I screeched.
Now I’ve been a reporter long enough to realize that arguing with or yelling at reporters is not one’s best PR tactic. As it turned out, I had a long conversation and a few long email exchanges with the reporter and they were fine.
Now comes the story. And it’s fine — except for the lede:
Does the idea of fostering online communities at news Web sites still make sense? A decade after author Howard Rheingold popularized the notion in his influential national bestseller “The Virtual Community,” news executives still support the idea, but they’re struggling to make the concept work.
Fee, fi, fo, fum, I smell the hand of an editor.
Nothing but nothing in the story that follows backs up that lede.
In the story, many of my colleagues in this business — the New York Times’ Martin Nissenholtz and the San Jose Mercury News’ Dan Gillmor among them — sing an aria of praises to the miracle of community. They all say it’s incredibly popular and builds amazing loyalty. They all say it brings audience to their web sites and thus their advertising and thus their business. They all seem to know quite well how to “make the concept work.”
I’ve been making the concept work for nine years now. I’d say we’re past making the concept work. It works.
The truth is that the concept works so well that it is now expanding in new areas — such as weblogs, the next generation of audience content (which the story just touches on).
So go ahead and read the story. But ignore the lede.