Tuesday, December 19, 2006


Earlier this month, December, Washington Post Staff Writer
Frank Ahrens wrote a story about a Fort Myers News-Press mobile journalist, or 'mojo.' The article, 'A Newspaper Chain Sees Its Future, And It's Online and Hyper-Local' is about a Gannett initiative to get reporters out in the community and posting directly to web sites, reporting from their cars. A very interesting thread was started on sportsshooter.com that follows this idea and what one cross section of the photographic community thinks about this approach.

I must admit I like the idea of getting writers out into the community that they cover. Focusing on local news is one way for newspapers to remain viable entities in today’s ever changing mediascape. My problem with this hyper-local approach is highlighted in the story, the News-Press writer Chuck Myron, covers the event himself including taking the picture for the web publication. (No, a photographer biased diatribe is not about to begin.)

The problem I perceive is two fold. It is difficult enough for a journalist to cover an event well, yet alone cover an event both photographically and write the story. When I collect sound there are almost always times I miss a great photo or when I photograph I hear great sound. This is one of the hazards of doing multimedia; the end product can be better, but some things get missed in the collecting. The other danger is that the hyper-local journalists will fall into the trap that Chuck Myron has, writing three stories about an event that might have justified a brief. Hyper-local can also be myopic.

To conclude, yes, by all means get out into the community you cover! Why not even send teams of journalists, a photographer and writer, with a web producer/editor back at the newspaper to package and edit work. That sounds like a great recipe for success. Time will tell how Gannett and the Fort Myers News-Press’s approach will work, I wish them all the best. They are at the very least trying something new, and in newspapers, that is a step forward.

P.S. - Ironically enough, the writer of the Washington Post piece took the web picture that accompanied the story, but THERE WAS NO LINK TO THE FORT MYERS WEB SITE IN THEIR ONLINE STORY.

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