J.D. Lasica and Traditional Journalists Ditch Brochurewear for Blogtopulus

27Apr08

MediaShift Idea Lab’s J.D. Lasica posted this roundup on “Blogtropulus vs. the Legacy Press Room“:

The traditional press lounge and the bloggers lounge (dubbed Blogtropolus, above) were set up side by side.

As someone who inhabits both worlds, I was fascinated by the study in contrasts. Both rooms have wireless access, but there the similarity ends.

Enter the press lounge and it’s akin to stepping into a public library: about 18 tech reporters are hunkered down at their laptops, sitting around small tables with nary a whisper. A partitioned-off unit with three black modules stands off to one side, allowing for one-on-one interviews. (They’re all empty at the moment.) Stacks of brochureware and press releases line the room. A coffee stand is set to one side. This, apparently, is the preferred habitat of the professional journalist, a recent addition to the endangered species list.

Immediately next door, Blogtropulus brims with energy and buzz. About five dozen bloggers mill about, chatting up friends and new acquaintances. (I recognize about a dozen folks.) In the back, a line forms at the two chairs where you can lie down for a massage. At the far left, three bloggers in their 20s are taking turns playing virtual bowling on a Wii; one simulates a bowler’s stance, and moments later a bowling ball sails down the lane toward a perfect strike on the projection screen. (Barack Obama, you should have practiced on a Wii.)

A video setup with professional lighting sits at the rear of the room, ready for on-camera interviews. Music pumps out of a pair of high-quality speakers, though not quite at party levels. A waiter pushes a portable cart, plastered with corporate logos and sporting a variety of drinks. While about a third of the bloggers sit pecking away at their laptops, most are talking about favorite startups they’d seen or cool sessions they’d attended. In Blogtropulus, the emphasis is on conversation and socializing.

As I prepare to leave, another former traditional journalist is talking to a friend about the Old Media press room. “It’s like a wake in there,” he says. “Talk about night and day.”

You can guess which room I spent more time in.

Why have two rooms? We shouldn’t be doing “legacy” anything for anyone. Why do bloggers continuously push communications teams to think outside of the box to create cool, personalized experiences for the press but send the same “brochurewear and press releases” to journalists. What’s happening on the Web should push all communications teams to make every point of contact with the media and consumers more interactive, engaging and sticky.

Image from J.D. Lasica’s Flickr feed

-Amanda Mooney

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2 Responses to “J.D. Lasica and Traditional Journalists Ditch Brochurewear for Blogtopulus”

  1. Amanda,

    The real issue here isn’t how these writers define themselves but how they are seen by their audiences–both editors AND readers.

    As a professional writer with articles and features dating back to 1988 in paid publications, I strongly equate my tools and skillset with that of a journalist. But the bulk of my writing since 2006 has been for non-traditional media.

    What does that make me? An influential blogger for MobileMag.com? I spouting, ranting columnist on bowlofcheese.com? A cross-platform (meaning print and online not Mac and PC) freelancer who shares pieces on jeffcutler.com with the online versions of print pubs like Gatehouse Media and Boston.com?

    Where we’re headed as journalists/writers/freelancers/podcasters/bloggers has more to do with our aspirations and need for renumeration than it does with our skills. As trained wordsmiths, we can write for an audience in nearly any arena. I don’t care if you read my words on a screen, on a glossy page or on newsprint. Or even listen to it on your iPod.

    But when you start to give the same benefits and compensation to untrained ‘citizen journalists’ you sully the profession and do readers a disservice.

    Ultimately, if readers don’t care if words are misused and events presented as fact are fabricated, then editors will start to take the path of least cost and resistance. Everyone wants to see their name in print and if an editor can get Joe-off-the-street to give a ‘fairly accurate’ account of a news event, then why pay me (or you) or anyone who’s properly trained to look for all the W’s and the H a living wage?

    While I think that technology has made it easier for everyone to communicate, it has only made it easier for those with the skills to report. Everyone else is still just talking. It’s just made it easier for more people to hear them.

    (If that wasn’t clear enough, just look at how PageMaker and InDesign and Microsoft Project unleashed a band of merry wanna-be designers on the business world. Anyone who could turn on a computer and move a mouse was suddenly creating newsletters and advertisements. Writing is the same thing. Many people think if they can type, they can write. Fortunately for those of us who can write, that mistaken belief proves itself clear to readers who demand more from their scribes.)

    Jeff
    http://www.ideas2words.com

  2. Amanda and ASL crew,

    I would first like to whole heartedly disagree with Mr. Cutler on very premise of his argument. Having worked in non-traditional media as a podcaster and technologically inclined student, my perspective of “citizen journalists” is very different. I feel that there are different benefits that bloggers (used broadly as amateur writers) bring to prospective audiences. For example, I no longer consume my news by sitting and watching the Today Show on NBC. Instead, I have a number of podcasts that are put together by both mainstream media as well as average joes. I still get all the news that I need.

    Yes, many podcasters or bloggers report or comment on the stories from mainstream media but they add something to it. One of my favorite podcasts is Geek News Central, the inspiration for my College Tech Central podcast, and the host is a Web 2.0 entrepreneur who JUST retired from working as a crew chief on US Navy warplanes. He doesn’t have a journalism degree, let alone a full bachelor’s but he brings to the table a unique perspective, a genuineness that is often lost on the talking heads of the media.

    People listen to my podcast not because I’m a journalist but because I can talk to them like people and engage them. Enough with that rant, Mr. Cutler’s comments sound to me as though he’s afraid that the citizen journalist is going to take over the spotlight and end his job.

    My second point is directly about this article that you’ve posted. I think that right now, there is a sort of greying of the media space. What I mean is that as we see “traditional” journalists such as Mr. Cutler moving to work for online entities, e.g. CNET, Engaget, ZDnet, the media and interaction between vendor and reporter has changed. As a result, the experience – as illustrated by the contrast between bloghaus and press room – has evolved with it. Now instead of PR companies pushing out stacks of papers with boilerplate, they distribute CD-ROMS that allow the user to interact to learn.

    That all said, I think there are going to be people from the social web space that might prefer the solitude of a library to get their work done. Others, will enjoy the high speed, high energy space of a Bloghaus. Every major convention has been moving to this sort of model from CES to GSMA to CEMA, and all the rest. It’s the move that is coming. To use CES as an example, it is HARD for the average Joe blogger to get press credentials to begin with but when they have been vetted, they’re treated like royalty. Chris Parillo was just talking about this issue on a recent podcast.. ironic that I found this right after listening.

    James Connors
    http://www.collegetechcentral.com



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