That’s what Jeff Jarvis calls “the new architecture of news” in an excellent post at Buzz Machine. He’s writing about newspapers but it applies to any news organization:
“They try to cover everything because they used to have to be all things to all people in their markets. So they had their own reporters replicate the work of other reporters elsewhere so they could say that they did it under their own bylines as a matter of pride and propriety. It’s the way things were done. They also took wire-service copy and reedited it so they could give their audiences the world. But in the age of the link, this is clearly inefficient and unnecessary. You can link to the stories that someone else did and to the rest of the world. And if you do that, it allows you to reallocate your dwindling resources to what matters, which in most cases should be local coverage.”
“Instead of saying, “we should have that” (and replicating what is already out there) you say, “what do we do best?” That is, “what is our unique value?” It means that when you sit down to see a story that others have worked on, you should ask, “can we do it better?” If not, then link. And devote your time to what you can do better.”
What do our news networks do “best?” Easy. We cover the legislature and state government in our respective states. Big newspapers do a great job on this beat but not much with audio. Yet. Some TV stations jump on a story if it has local appeal (and time allows). I still think we do the audio thing best. For now.
By chance or design, our websites have had this same focus. We’ve stayed close to what we do best.
I won’t get into pros and cons of our current network/affiliate business model. That’s too big an issue for this little blog. But it begs the question: Do enough people care about the legislature and state government to give us an audience that will be attractive to advertisers?
I should add that we still attempt to cover news from throughout the state. But it’s getting harder. At the same time, it’s getting easier to find out what’s going 500 miles away. But we are dependent on our affiliate radio stations to cover local stories of statewide significance. And many local radio stations have cut their news departments. As a statewide network, we are the sum of our affiliate parts.
I posted last month about one of our reporters killing a link (that I had added) to a “competing” news organization. Jarvis’ post is for him. If a news outlet was at a press conference that we couldn’t attend and posted a story, we can’t be afraid to link to them. Not if we’re serious about serving our listeners/readers. The fiction that “if they don’t know about it, it didn’t happen (yet)” doesn’t fly anymore. They know about it. And we should help them know about it. Whoever does that best wins. [Thanks, David]