Can a news organization un-news the news enough to survive?

That is the question put forth recently by a Seattle-based political blog …

Not only are newspapers dying, the type of “news” they purvey — uninterpreted, blandly regurgitated, pre-spun information supplied and shaped by a stakeholder with the intent of policy manipulation — has lost its relevance as well. Just look where the growth in news is — Rachel Maddow, Keith Olbermann, Jon Stewart, Huffington Post — and you get the idea. Journalism today is a process of un-newsing the news.

The flip to un-news has contributed worlds more to newspapers’ decline than, say, Craigslist (the favorite news executives’ whipping post). The news I get from newspapers, especially local, has to do mostly with crime, sports and weather events. It is aimed at some lowest common denominator that probably no longer exists. It’s an approach that worked when news was what newspapers said it was, end of story. In the limitless smorgasbord of the Web, the reader gets to define news.

That is especially true on Inauguration Day, where you can page through dozens of web sites and blogs, thousands of photos and videos, hundreds of Tweets and Facebook updates, to find the angle of coverage you want.

How will journalism survive and thrive in this new information ecosystem?  By shifting focus from a general mass media approach to a more narrow slice of interest or geography. As Dave Morgan recently wrote, “Pulitzers don’t make great newspapers. Local distribution monopolies make great newspapers.”

Welcome to the era of micromarkets. 

I won’t miss the “he-said, she-said, you-figure-it-out” journalism if, and when, it dies. A more transparent, collaborative and interactive form of journalism will hopefully take its place, creating better informed citizens and more scalable business models. As the “News Collaboratory” at the Reynolds Journalism Institute plainly states on its about page: “The Web continues to propel the nichification of news. Hundreds of Web-based news/information sites and organizations have appeared over the last few years and are thriving.” 

Applying the same business model for news products that worked yesterday is one way to ensure failure. Using the same journalism is another.

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