Wednesday, March 11, 2009

On anonymous commenters and Candian journo-bloggers

The McMinnville News Register this week decided to end anonymous commenting on its site. They got it right. One can only hope that my own employer figures that out one of these days, along with other media Web sites. Raise the bar for discussion by making readers put their names behind their words. My hope is that we can continue to encourage people to comment -- and in many more creative ways than media sites are doing now -- but cap the racist, sexist and downright nasty tones that so often prevail in anonymous forums.

On another note, the Nieman Journalism Lab today gave a boost to Canadian blogger Morten Rand-Hendriksen and his recent post, "10 Steps to Save the Newspaper." Some interesting stuff in there, to be sure. His fundamental premise is that North American newspapers are dying a slow and painful death while their European counterparts seem to be thriving. It follows, Rand-Hendriksen figures, that we should think about being more like those journo-blokes across the pond.

Ideas I like most:

* The Internet is a visual medium, so be largely visual on it. Scrap the text-heavy look and feel most news sites use now, and go heavy with Flash grafix, video, audio and the use of photos to tell stories. This doesn't mean we have to dumb it down. Not entirely, anyway. But it does suggest we'd have to learn to tell stories in entirely new ways.

* Start a weekly news magazine. Eventually, this may be all that's left for print anyway. Interesting idea.

* Start ventures and projects that fall well outside the traditional definition of news and newsgathering. Not sure how this would look, but it has potential.

* Let everyone be a critic. I like this a lot. We should implement this one tomorrow.

* Finally, and most importantly, become a broadcaster. We not only have more and better reporters and editors than local TV stations, we don't have the limits that are placed on them by regulations and that other old-school medium -- television. Let's turn ourselves into full-service Internet broadcasters and eat their lunch in the Web-video news future.

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