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The Pitch 2: Can newspapers compete with hyper-local blogs? (Yes!)

December 11, 2008

UPDATE: Jason’s got a big roundup of The Pitch, including blog posts from others in attendance, over at his blog, eat sleep publish.

Those of us who attended Jason Preston’s The Pitch in Seattle’s U-District last night seemed to agree that there has to be some way for “big” newspapers to compete for readership with hyper-local blogs. (Or I guess disagree, since “The Pitch” itself was: “An established newspaper will never be able to provide better hyperlocal coverage than a well-managed neighborhood blog.”)

For my part, I threw in the caveat that yes, they can compete, but only if they stop thinking of themselves as newspapers and start thinking of themselves as news sources. Read someone online recently — sorry, don’t remember who — who wrote that the problems newspapers are having right now are analogous to the issues that cropped up with the railroad industry when busses and planes came along — they thought of themselves as just railroad companies and not transportation companies.

Same idea.

The point I was trying to make, however, was that the newspaper industry’s problems are all mental — and thus definitely not insurmountable.

What newspaper reporters need to adapt to is not just the technology at their disposal, but also the way in which that technology is used. Most journalists are trained to write, as if it’s an art form. Well, it is, but that art form varies depending on which medium you’re working in. (More on this in a future post.)

Thoughts on The Pitch

I can’t give enough credit to Jason for coming up with the idea for The Pitch. If you’re not familiar with it, or didn’t bother clicking on the link up above, here’s the gist: Jason gives a “Pitch” — a debatable statement — and a round table of local journalists and bloggers discusses it. Sounds simple enough, but a lot of interesting ideas spin out of these discussions — and hey, the more ideas, the better.

Things I particularly liked about this edition of The Pitch:

The location was a lot better this time around. Last time we were holed up in Belltown. Nice enough bar, but I had to dodge a few dealers and — no joke — one male prostitute on the two-block walk from my car. Oh, and parking was free this time and a lot easier to find.

Briefer comments. A few people at the last Pitch talked for a loooong time and I’m sorry to say that I zoned out once or twice. Jason did a nice job of moderating this time and kept the ball rolling.

Attendees-only setting. We didn’t have the bar to ourselves the first time through, which was a little distracting. Having our “own” space was a lot more conducive to an engaging conversation. Not sure if that’s here to stay, but I liked it.

If any of this sounds interesting, check out Jason’s blog, eat sleep publish. He’s a shrewd observer of the journalism business and definitely worth hearing from.

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