Journalism as a product

Stephanie Miller, the director of digital media for CBS Boston television came in to speak to my “Reinventing the News” class on Wednesday. She is in charge of social media and interactive initiatives for WBZ-TV and WBZ Radio (AM 1030).

She talked about a lot of interesting things, but the thing that intrigued me most was the idea of “journalism as a product.”

“You need to define yourself,” she said. “What kind of community you’re going to build, what kind of tribe you’re going to lead.”

So many journalists, sometimes myself included, think that we are creating this really beautiful and important creative form that is above the commercial marketplace when in reality, it’s not. People buy our words (well, that’s the general idea, but right now it doesn’t happen too often), and that makes journalism a product.

Miller discussed the need to “develop a community and a sense of collaboration and participation” with your audience. Community relationships are a necessity for the survival of journalism. She talked about her own project in which she does just that. “Declare Your Curiosity” is a project that allows people to submit things that they would like to see in the news.

“We’ve asked people to tell us what they care about,” she said. “What pisses you off? What scares you? What is affecting your life? What makes you curious?”

People can submit their curiosities online and then often times they get responded to in the most appropriate form: blog post, short article, etc. Recent curiosities have included what is being done to help people whose houses have been foreclosed and about the dangers of low hanging power lines over local roads.

This project has seen amazing results. Since they started in May of 2008, there have been 6,000 unique users with  10,000 curiosities. Miller says that involving people in their news is a way to personalize their media intake.

Miller also uses Twitter to engage her users. Not only does the station have a Twitter account, but each reporter has a work account where users can interact with specific reporters about recent articles. One of the most fascinating thing about this is that their average follower on Twitter is 45.

WBZ can use all of this information, including the curiosities, demographics of their users, and trending topics on Twitter, to develop content that would be of interest to their customers.

But Miller also talked about how journalists are not obsolete. Even if people tell you that they want to read about how Obama’s health care reform plan won’t work, or why marijuana should be legalized, that’s not always the responsible thing to report.

“Journalists understand that it’s about being fair and portraying the story as accurately as possible,” she said, “but  sometimes you have to tell the community ‘We respect you but here’s some info that might change your mind.'”

So considering I have no comments on this blog, it is very possible that my dad is the only person who reads this. I’m hoping that this is not the case. But either way, it’s not very community oriented if you ask me. Help me out dear readers!


3 thoughts on “Journalism as a product

  1. Not just your father, silly, you know I’m good to read your blogs (or at least I always diligently read the one you kept in cuba)

  2. i like reading your blog when it consolidates all of the internet into a bite sized piece of relevant information. i am curious as to why you aren’t writing more about food. i also would like to see your opinions on how to achieve satisfaction. i will return regularly.

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