Tag Archives: collaboration

Competition: a blessing or a burden?

I have often heard it argued that competition fuels progress.  Scientists fight to be the first to prove a new theory.  Athletes push each other to get the new world record.  Journalists scramble to be the first to cover a story.

It is competition which drives us to do better, make advances in our career field.  We view competition as a reason to push ourselves, take risks.

But, as Mark Briggs points out in Journalism Next, sometimes competition can hinder progress.

Journalism is ever changing, with arguably the largest change to date being the incorporation of the Internet.  This transition was, and still is, burdened with uncertainty.  Everything was new and there is so much that had yet to be explored.  But the competition remains.

In this beginning, however, the competition hindered risk taking and advances.  Competition kept journalistic sources from taking risks that would provide better material for their audiences.

I’m talking about link journalism or, as Briggs describes it, the use of  “editorial judgment to provide links to other sources of news and information, based on the needs and interests of a particular audience.”  It is the opposite of competition; it’s collaboration.  It goes against all our competitive instincts, but it can bring new life and depth to journalism if we allow it.

Before the Internet, the option to link one news source to another was simply not there.  Linking one print story to another would only have caused confusion amongst the audience.  So, as Briggs explains, when linking did become an option, many journalists were hesitant:

“For years, linking to ‘the competition’– other news sites –was either explicitly or tactily prohibited.  ‘If we send readers somewhere else, they might not come back,’ the thinking went.”

Link journalism provides the opportunity for reporters to provide more well-rounded coverage of any given story.  It allows readers to see more of what journalists see – what contributes to the article they produced.  This includes previous coverage, background information, and video and photography related to the subject.  And more than that, it challenges reporters to be the source that their audience looks to for great coverage.

It took some bold reporters and editors to start this wave of new journalism, and even bolder ones to take it to the level it has currently reached with link journalism fully incorporated.

Not only has link journalism made its presence known in journalism, but it has also opened to door to even more collaborative journalism strategies such as crowdsourcing, pro-am journalism, and open-source reporting in general.

And to think, if those few bold journalists had listened to their competitive instincts link journalism and all the advantages it offers may not be available today.

Competition: both a burden and a blessing.

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“No-restraint journalism”

Constant speculation about the integrity of blogging has kept many journalists, including this one (until now, that is), from joining this wave of new media.  Sure, some upsides can be found: there’s no downtime between finishing a story and getting it to your audience, blogs can express your personal style and opinion in both layout and content, and anyone and everyone can start one.  But wait… couldn’t those all also be considered flaws of this new media form?

The speed at which news can be presented is both a blessing and a burden. Without the middle-man editor taking the time to read over and question a story, the writer may release a post that is poorly written, researched, and/or received.

“Here’s something you frequently see with bloggers that trained journalists usually avoid: Making accusations or strong criticisms without asking the target for reaction. For the sake of balance, it just makes sense to be fair and to seek the other sides of the story.” – excerpt from “What Bloggers Can Learn From Journalists” by Steve Outing

That being said, bloggers have the advantage of correcting their mistake immediately while newspaper, magazine, and TV reporters have to wait for the next issue or show to be released.  Nevertheless, having a second pair of eyes read over a piece is always a good idea.

Despite the potential for premature reporting, blogs do have the opportunity to break barriers.  No editors means no cut stories.  Newspapers and TV news stations are expected to be objective (whether they are or not is another issue), so reporters present the news as just facts, no opinion on the topic at hand.  Reporters try to represent every side, include all the research, and make a story as thorough as possible every time they write.  In other words, they treat each story like they only have one chance to tell it, so they better tell it right.

“Big media has to learn to be more honest,” says Jeff Jarvis, a media executive who moonlights as a blogger, “that is, to level with its public, to reveal its prejudices, and process as citizen journalists (bloggers) do.” – excerpt from “What Journalists Can Learn From Bloggers” by Steve Outing

Outing and Jarvis describe news as a conversation.  It does not start and end with the publishing of one article.  Instead, the release of an article should be seen as the beginning of a conversation; one that requests the reactions, input, and perspectives of its readers.

As Outing has so clearly pointed out, bloggers can learn from journalists and journalists can learn from bloggers.  It is a balance between the well-researched journalistic form and the outspoken and speedy blogger that will take new media to a whole new level.

Now if only journalists and bloggers would listen.

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