The following commentary original aired on KOSU Radio, December 12, 2013.
Nothing could have prepared me for the decline of the newspaper. As a public relations practitioner, I’ve been working in partnership with this industry since 1991. To watch it shrink and break underneath its own growing irrelevance has been the most stunning development of my career. I wonder every day, what is really going to fill the gap on the local news landscape.
Meanwhile, I watch sites like BuzzFeed become the world’s largest news service. Here are a few of their recent headlines:
- 15 Signs You’re Addicted to Peppermint
- 13 Horrifying Christmas Trolls of Iceland
- The 15 Stages of Killing A Spider
- 21 Things Introverts Love
I really like that last one. Real, in-depth reporting there, folks.
So, we’re in deep trouble. What happens when the watchdog of Democracy dies?
Plain and simple, Oklahoma’s largest media properties and personalities are just the latest, ongoing victims of something called Disruptive Innovation. Social media have created new markets and value networks. They’ve replaced the news empires we feared and hated; needed and yes, even loved. At least, there have been reporters I loved. At one time, I read the paper cover-to-cover and couldn’t make it through the day without a smudge of newsprint on my face.
Those days are behind me, never coming back.
Did you see the humongous spread about Patrick Riley in Slice Magazine? Page after page of glossy photos highlighting the genius of the founder of the blog, The Lost Ogle. I’m just gonna go out on a limb and say Riley’s web property is worth probably six, maybe seven figures.
As with all disruptive innovations, traditional media has been altered by new technology. But, web publishing is no easy task and the time involved is excruciating. Anna Holmes worked 18 hours a day to build the award-winning site Jezebel.
If law is a jealous mistress, blogging is a jealous, needy child.
Many Oklahoma bloggers are making an effort to fill the gap created by disruptive innovation. One is Red Dirt Report with its awesome Cowboy-inspired masthead. It’s edited by a formally trained journalist, Andrew W. Griffin. He puts feet to his reporting, and most recently broke the story about the a New York Satanic Temple that wants to erect a monument at the State Capitol.
Thanks to Feedly, a news aggregator (the iPad app is divine), I am able to keep up with more than 100 Oklahoma blogs, but most are pure niche and don’t provide any original or hard news reporting. Success awaits any blogger who is willing to brand him or herself as a local beat reporter. (Think local and dedicated police blog, arts blog, fashion blog, business blog, health blog, etc.) Just be prepared to put in 18 hour days and not get paid for a very long time, if ever.
Every day, I wonder how it’s all going to shake out. What happens to Democracy when the watchdog becomes a paper tiger? When the newsroom is neutered? When we stop reading things that matter?
Can local bloggers fill the gap? Can they successfully, even modestly, monetize their sites? I hope so.
Shout Out: Nikole Carroll new morning edition host on KOSURadio. Follow her on Twitter at @NRCarrollKOSU.
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