Erin pointed me at Stephen Hume’s column in the Vancouver Sun from earlier in the week. With a certain “you kids get off my lawn” charm, Mr. Hume protests a little too much about the rise of new media:
Meanwhile, blogosphere chatter responds with gleefully patronizing pronouncements on how the “old media” are toast, about to join the pterodactyl. The “new media” leads the way to a promised land of free information and citizen journalism.
Permit a few observations from the tar pits. First, the old media are the new media. The Vancouver Sun’s website, for example, generated 10 million page views in February — more than 357,000 a day. Our blogs attract more than 500,000 page views per month and have become — let me quote from the boss’s last memo — “a vital tool to gather and distribute content.” And all these numbers trend upward.
In my experience, most thinking bloggers recognize the implicit value of the news media. We’re well past the gloating phase, and are interested in helping newspapers save themselves from their own lack of foresight. That’s why I enjoy reading Mathew Ingram and Scott Rosenberg, because they do a great job of analyzing the mainstream media’s troubles and, more importantly, they discuss solutions.
Mr. Hume also takes bloggers to task for hiding behind anonymity. This is a bit of a red herring. After all, pretty much every popular blogger identifies themselves. And Mr. Hume would do well to remember the value of anonymity for bloggers in countries like China or Iran. I wonder, does he think of them as ‘cowards’, too?
The Right Metrics
If the Vancouver Sun is the new media, then Mr. Hume ought to pick the right metrics on which to report. Nobody I know in new media uses “page views” when describing their site’s popularity. In my experience, an organization reports on page views when a) they’re not measuring their traffic accurately and b) they’re just choosing the number that sounds the biggest.
And if the Vancouver Sun is new media, why haven’t more of them come to Northern Voice? In five years, we’ve had, by my count, no more than one or two reporters out to the conference. And this is one of the biggest new media conferences on the west coast, in the Sun’s own backyard. Not to mention the fact that all Mr. Hume’s Editor-in-Chief is doing with her Twitter account is posting links to her own newspaper.
There’s plenty more to criticize in Mr. Hume’s piece. The notion, for example, that newspapers offer an “assurance of quality and public accountability” is highly dubious. But what frustrates me most about Mr. Hume’s column is the lack of proposed solutions. He offers a hagiography to journalists, but doesn’t have any suggestions for how the industry might right its floundering corporate ship. Maybe that’sin another blog post, or, rather, column? He should check out Scott and Mathew’s blogs. Not only are they journalists who play extremely well with the new media, but they’re thinking about answers.
UPDATE: In the comments, Lisa rightfully points out that I should have mention Sun deputy editor Kirk LaPointe, whose blog I read and enjoy. I’d also meant to mention the irony that while I can comment on the Sun’s news stories, I can’t comment on Mr. Hume’s editorial. It’s odd that I can’t provide feedback on the bloggiest of content.
UPDATE #2: Mike Davidson of Newsvine has written a nice piece about the demise of the print edition of the Seattle P-I: “Overall, IÃ¢â‚¬â„¢m not super optimistic about the future of a lot of these newspaper companies, but I really would love to see them at least replaced with something better. I still have a hard time believing that a 146-year-old company like the Seattle P-I is moving out of their own building before we are.”