Monday, February 25, 2008

Good news and bad about on-line news

Today brought major good news for the news-blogging community, and small-potatoes not-so-good news for this particular news blogger.

The good news was that Joshua Micah Marshall, the founder and force behind the investigative blog Talking Points Memo, has won the distinguished George Polk Award for legal reporting.

For the first time the national award is going to a journalist who publishes exclusively on the web. An article in today’s New York Times describes both Marshall's success and his site, which has a staff of seven reporters and an army of online citizen tipsters and correspondents.

Question: Why is this story on the “Business” page? Could it be because, notably, Marshall and his operation are actually making money.

The Polk Award is both recognition for Marshall and his site and a note-worthy milestone in the history of journalism.

Now for the not-so-good news here in Hillsdale.

First a little background.

Although I still write a monthly print column for The Southwest Community Connection, a monthly I founded and sold in 1999, most of my journalistic energies now go into The Hillsdale News, and, to a lesser extent, this more-or-less daily blog.

Both are volunteer efforts. I have not sought to make a dime off either, although I eventually may offer advertising space on the Hillsdale News. I'm waiting for my subscriber list to break 400. I'm now at 318.

Now for the not-so-good news.

Today I was at a small gathering of community leaders when one of them announced that he had read an obscure, one-sentence news item in The Oregonian today about a non-profit housing agency, Community Partners for Affordable Housing's, moving its offices to Hillsdale.

This leader receives the Hillsdale News in his e-mail in-box. The last edition was mailed nine days ago and had the same story but prominently displayed and thoroughly reported.

In short, The Hillsdale News scooped The Oregonian by more than a week, yet the leader wasn’t aware of of the Hillsdale News story.

The scoop wasn’t the first, and it won’t be the last.

The problem is that the reading habits of this community leader and of many others still take them routinely to print and only sporadically to online news sources. When I informed him that I had the story more than a week ago, he apologized that he hadn’t “had time to get to” the News yet.

But he obviously makes time each day to go to The Oregonian.

I can sympathize because I still turn to print over online sources. Confession: I hadn’t even heard about Talking Points Memo until I read about it in my ink-and-paper New York Times this morning. I now have it "book marked."

We are all running to keep up, not only with the news but with the news media and their stunning transformation.

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