Tuesday, June 26, 2007

What Am I Missing Here?

Jeff Jarvis makes note of the new AOL news, now in beta, which takes on a blog format. Not a big deal, he says. Not news. "Can we stipulate that the blog tool is just a publishing too and it's not news when somebody uses it," he says.

Before we get too excited, or not excited enough, remember that the purpose of a news site is to inform, not to make sure we all get along or participate in some kind of social experiment about equality.

Seconds before this writing AOL News fills its page with the news — from just after midnight, though updated 20 minutes ago — that Paris Hilton has been released from jail. It assures me about the importance of this event by placing it under a banner that says: “Top Stories Right Now” (I digress, but isn’t the “Right Now” part redundant,
This is news, and it isn’t good

a little shout of unneeded emphasis that tries to convince me of something we both know isn’t true?) And yes, I see on AOL the tiny list of “latest headlines” to the right of Paris’ head, a nod to the “see — we are actually prioritizing the news!” criticism they must have anticipated.

Yahoo!, using the same amount of above-the-fold space, tells me “U.S. troops target bomb networks,” “Pivotal vote looms on immigration,” and “Firefighters gain ground on Calif. blaze.”

Sorry — this is news, and it isn’t good.

The “blog” approach is something some news outlets should employ. They should be open to all kinds of new possibilities and experiment and risk failure. My own mantra is that the solution to the woes facing small newspapers will be addressed, in part, by their use of “real blogs with real people and real voices,” as Jarvis says. Many will reinvent themselves as blogs, becoming somewhat one with the community and thus better catering to the interest of its by-definition narrow constituency.

But at the national level, this looks like a major disservice masquerading as hip that panders to an audience who doesn’t know what they are missing — literally.

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