I spoke with a friend/journalism colleague late last week about digital media business models and my own foray into online community news, and brought up the Complete Community Connection, originally conceptualized by Steve Buttry. The local news website of the future will be the go-to source for all information related to that particular community. Why parse information and data between several local/mobile/app services when it can be organized neatly at a single destination?
One concern he brought up that got me thinking, and now writing, is that it may be best to do one thing well rather than a bunch of little things sub par. I didn’t ask him to clarify, and I should have, but I presume he meant the one thing that we [journalists] can do well is create content, and the other things would be to act as a community directory or commerce platform. But as Jeff Jarvis has long contended, the new media journalist’s role will evolve, and some may say already has, from gatekeeper to gate opener. To be enablers rather than producers. That is, to treat readers as collaborators rather than just a set of eyeballs. There’s more information flowing online than ever before, and the journalist’s role is to help sort and make sense of it.
That said, my team and I prefer to call the community news site we’re working on an “information-sharing platform,” as we don’t want to pigeonhole the information found there as simply “news.” The information visitors can find there will come in a variety of forms, and our aim, in addition to creating original content, is to act as curators that connect visitors with information most relevant to them: where they are. In that sense, we are providing a service beyond what city council members discussed at their latest meeting, and might include the nearest dining options that include search queries “margaritas + patio + within 5 miles of current location,” for example.
We’re expanding our role, to be sure, but we don’t think of it as trying to tackle “a bunch of little things.” It’s all information, and we want to make sense of it in as elegant and streamlined a fashion as possible.