Monday, November 19, 2007

The Megan Meier Case

The Internet is abuzz with debate over the death of 13-year-old Megan Meier. She committed suicide after being jilted by a boy named Josh who had shown interest in her in the virtual world of MySpace. As it turns out, there was no Josh. He was a cruel hoax, the work of a neighbor whose daughter had had a falling out with Megan.

Authorities say no law was broken, so no charges can be filed. Many in the online forums are unconvinced and outraged. This post from "Cindy" is typical: "She is the DEVIL, evil beyond words and if she does not pay for this crime, she will when she burns in the hottest of hells when her soul goes to hell. Hell is not even hot enough for this lowest form of scum on the earth." (Read more>)

In reviewing coverage of the case, both online and in traditional media, the web has more passion and more information. Online posts have identified the woman, her husband, his employer, their business and its customers (complete with addresses and phone numbers). Meanwhile, traditional news organizations so far have withheld the name of the neighbor.

In one posting, someone who identified himself as a newspaper journalist wrote: "Every day newspaper journalism as we know it gets one step closer to death, as readers turn to blogs and TV and other media for information. This wimp of an editor, who doesn't have the guts to name the wrongdoers involved, has just hastened our eventual demise by at least another week or two."

There is a common assumption that traditional journalists do the reporting and the blogosphere sits back and provides commentary. In this case, as in so many, most of the reporting is being done online by private citizens. But the lingering question remains, are they journalists, vigilantes or both?

It is obvious from my review how much private citizens can contribute to a story. However, one is reminded of the importance of journalistic ethics and an understanding that in the U.S., we are supposed to be innocent until proven guilty.

Monday, November 12, 2007

The increasing importance of multimedia content

A common theme in the online world is the growing importance of multimedia content. Just about every newspaper with whom we work now offers video in some fashion and just about all of them are reporting significant increases in traffic for it.

So I am rarely surprised when I talk to a newspaper and they tell me about the explosive growth of multimedia usage on their sites. However, I learned something last week at The New York Times that took even me by surprise.

During the recent California wildfires, 10 percent of all site traffic was for multi media content, according to Fiona Spruill, editor of The Times' web newsroom. This percentage represents a staggering number. is a hugely successful website that counts its page views in the billions. That's with a "B."

The Times' success with multimedia underscores the importance of a video/multimedia strategy for almost any news website as well as to companies and other strategic communicators. The simple truth is if you don't offer multimedia content, your visitors are going to be drawn to other websites that do.

Video usage has transcended the young who led the charge to YouTube. Now thanks to increasingly pervasive broadband connections, we all are watching stories that include pictures and sounds. We do indeed live in a multimedia world.

Thursday, November 8, 2007

N.C. newspaper gets it--and gets it fast!

When folks in Shelby, N.C., wanted to see election results this week, they had a trusted source, the Web site of The Shelby Star. However what they saw on that site was rather unusual, certainly for a newspaper.

The Star had taken its Star Car live unit to a fire station where results traditionally are displayed. Web visitors could see live, streaming video of the results as well as the crowd who had gathered to see them. In its first official week of operation, the Star Car is making its presence known in Shelby.

The Star Car is a news vehicle that is designed to facilitate getting information and multi media content quickly back to the newspaper and its Web site. It is not a TV live truck, but it does many of the same things. In the words of Star Publisher Skip Foster, "It is good enough." (Read more>)

The Star, which is owned by Freedom Communications, is one of the most innovative newspapers in the United States. It has engaged its community with relevant, multi media content. Its series on an unsolved murder is journalism at its finest--and an example of why convergent journalism is more powerful. (Read more>) The series has led to an arrest in the 40-year-old case and is the subject of a documentary on the Oxygen cable network.

When big newspapers tell me they don't have the resources to implement a convergence strategy, I smile and point to Shelby, which has fewer than 20 journalists in its newsroom.

In the months ahead, I predict you are going to be hearing a lot more about the Shelby Star and its Star Car.

Tuesday, November 6, 2007

A Korean perspective

One of the bonuses of working in a facility with an international client base is the opportunity to interact with journalists from all over the world. This week, we are working with--and learning from--a group of media executives from South Korea.

The Korean journalists are here as part of a Newsplex executive study tour. They are members of a leadership class at the Korea Press Foundation, which includes newspaper, television and online journalists.

In many ways, the news media in Korea are among the most progressive in the world. Mobile technologies are quite advanced and there is almost universal Internet access. The online community is robust and thriving. OhmyNews in Seoul, with 50,0000 citizen reporters, is the gold standard of citizen journalism.

Yet, the structure of Korean news organizations typically is quite traditional According to the group, many Korean journalists fear change, this in a country that prides itself on innovation.

We did a conference call with an editor at London's Daily Telegraph, where last year's reorganization and move into a new newsroom rejuvenated this venerable daily. The Koreans were fascinated by the lessons of the DT.

It really doesn't matter where you are or what language is being spoken, the issues are universal. Journalists demand change from those they cover, be they politicians, coaches or business leaders. But when it comes to their own newsrooms, that's different story, even in Korea.