In these days of news organizations slowly and quickly and very quickly falling apart, I’m starting to catalogue types of reporting that really should be done by citizen media instead. Josh Korr at Publishing 2.0 thinks of scrapbook news; I’m leaning more toward inane trend stories.
Case in point: why did at least three major news sources decide today to publish stories about the Facebook 25 things meme? The New York Times, Time, and my local, normally-serious Washington Post all fell prey to this; anyone would think the meme had a gifted publicist. But how did I find out about two of the three stories? From a friend’s Facebook status. (The Post one I found on its website, in my daily “read the 15-25 stories I might care about” scan.)
I quite like the meme, as long as no one expects me to complete it – my friends’ random facts have been amusing (especially the 25 completely fictional “facts” one person shared). But if you care about the story, you know it’s happening because it’s on your news feed, and if it’s not on your news feed I can’t imagine you care about the story. So why spend precious journalistic resources on this? Is this the kind of content people will value enough to pay for?
Sure, it’s content that got me to write a blog post. And maybe that’s what newspapers and magazines value now. But eyeballs are one thing, and money to support your foreign bureaus is another, and I wish the people I rely on for news had a better idea how to keep delivering it.