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I am going to use this space to share a comment I posted on a South Florida blog I frequent, called The Daily Pulp.
It essentially characterizes my thoughts on the resistance to change in the newspaper industry, which I do know something about having worked at a newspaper as part of a department charged with introducing new ideas and incorporating multimedia and news partnerships into the daily culture. We asked reporters and editors to step outside of their comfort zones on a daily basis. That was part of the job.
On the day I made my initial comment, my former paper had just launched a redesign that was not very popular throughout the comments area, and I chose not to bash them and simply offer mild praise for the fact that they tried something new.
My comment prompted a response from someone within the organization, which The Pulp’s author, Bob Norman liked so much, he posted as a single blog with that comment being the focus.
There are some good ideas there. Really good ideas. But the author is so frustrated with the politics of the news organization and the industry as a whole, he or she may never share them, and I think that’s too bad.

Here’s my comment:

Those are awesome ideas. I’m lucky that I now work for a place where we really try new things. Things that are out of the box, and things that might not work, but then again they might. And that’s enough. But that is not the newspaper culture. Should it be? Yes, but it isn’t. That is why I chose not to criticize the redesign that day and simply offer up mild praise for trying something new. You’re right, there have been lots of ideas tossed around the SS for years that could have been implemented. Heck, I worked for the man who brought many of those to pass and anyone can tell you that we pushed and pushed the multimedia wagon with some success but there was a lot of resistance. What’s important here is the resistance was tolerated. It was an option. It should not have been an option. For too long, innovation has been optional. Now it’s required and that takes a different mindset.
Have you all followed the big whoop about the Philadelphia Inquirer’s decision to hold all enterprise, investigative and trend pieces for the paper only? The backlash they’ve received in the blogosphere is crazy. But a few have spoken up and said, “Hey, at least they’re trying a new model.” I was one of those people who thought it was totally backwards initially and blasted them for it. Part of me still has my doubts because on the surface it is. BUT–they are trying to have exclusive content in the paper and they are going to publish simultaneously so that readers can expect something different in the paper, that hasn’t already been out for a full day. So, again I say: At least they’re trying something. My suggestion to you is to see if you can get someone to listen to those ideas. Speak their language. Put it in a memo, draw up a proposal. If you really care and want to be part of the change you have to keep trying. It’s better than doing nothing. And when you quit and move on to greener can say: “At least I tried.”

So, I say you have to share those ideas. Tell someone. Even if you think they’ll be shot down, it’s worth a shot. Change will never, ever come about it if the people with the best ideas remain silent.

There is a great deal of talk about user-submitted comments on news stories taking place all over the blogosphere. Some say nix them, like that Gawker piece that annoyed me to no end. Others say don’t. Some say they are of immense value, and I tend to agree.

People want to share their thoughts and engage with others. That’s what this social media thing is about right? So how can you actively promote social media, and the benefits of starting a dialog, or consider yourself any kind of “community servant” and discount user-comments? Think about it.
It just doesn’t make sense.

I’ve seen some of the most intricate, thought-provoking comments on news stories. I’ve seen exchanges between the community that command attention and that would easily stand alone as an individual blog.
On the flip side, I’ve also seen some of the most unbelievably crude comments riddled with so much hate that it made my skin crawl.
So the answer is this. If you value comments, as you should…KEEP THEM.
But clean them up.
This is an area that newspapers or any news organization can easily get a handle on.
Hire moderators. Elevate the conversation and show the community that you want to provide an outlet and positive experience.
Maybe it’s me, but this really isn’t rocket science. It’s simply innovation.

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This is a personal blog. The opinions expressed here represent my own and not those of my employer. Feel free to challenge me, disagree with me, or tell me I’m completely nuts in the comments section of each blog entry.


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