Week 4 – Editing for a Market

8 Feb

Niche Market Editing – The Business Side of Things

In this day and age it’s become simultaneously easier and harder to realize that editors are businesspeople. The notion of running paper or news site for profit seems to conflict with journalism’s key tenets, objectivity, on the most basic of levels.

Being a good businessperson involves aggregation the same way being a good editor or journalist does.

It’s about planning for your market.

Most important, it’s about not letting your position go to your head. The cases with Gannett and the Tribune Company illustrate a larger point: when you have a large news conglomerate, the leadership is much more detached from the down-home news value wanted by small communities.

However, this same detachment usually leads to smarter business decisions because an executive is less likely to personally know the people his decisions are affecting. It’s obvious that the bigger the paper, the more businesslike the editors have to be.

Now let’s talk about Patch. Patch does represent a kind of journalism to me. In fact, it seems tailored to the kind of (to quote the site’s “About Us” page) “community-specific” journalism that 86 percent of people said informed them. The obvious issue here is whether the residents of each community would want a physical newspaper as opposed to just a news site. I think the site could use some color variation between communities, though, to give the impression that it’s more than just another content farm. It’s a very noble idea, though, because the site is giving resources to communities that otherwise might not have a news source. Just don’t expect a comprehensive national picture; I think “Patch” is a very appropriate name for a site that has such sporadic coverage.

Content farms, in my opinion, represent a sort of “fake” community journalism. Whereas sites like Patch farm out entire sites, content farms just farm stories, which are then published by bigger news sources. Any smart reader is going to want to know that the newspaper or site cared enough to send its own people to cover a story.

Of course, this is the dichotomy: audiences and markets have become so splintered it’s impossible to cover them all, especially with the kinds of cuts made by bigger corporations. It becomes clear that content farms are a necessary evil, but perhaps newspapers could be a little more lenient with the rights for content farmers to use their names when covering stories. It would at least give the sources a good impression.

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