News meetings suck.
Not because they are long, boring and often don’t have enough snacks (actually that may be the problem), but because they are a group of journalists sitting in a room trying to decide what news they think readers will want to read. Editors and reporters have a good eye for news and are trained to know what makes a good story, but the problem with the system is that there really is no accurate way to gauge what stories thousands or millions of readers will care about. Sure there are site analytics which gauge the popularity of individual online news articles, but as any editor can tell you these stories often skew to the offbeat stories and celebrity news.
That’s where sites like Windy Citizen and NYC.is come in. The sites aggregate local news for Chicago and New York, respectively, and follow a Digg-like formula where users submit the stories they find interesting and others vote the stories up or down. Both sites play to the wisdom of the crowd: local readers know what’s important to them and those that are unsure of what they want to read can rely on their peers for suggestions.
Yes Windy Citizen and NYC.is mostly depend on mainstream news sources to fuel their sites, but the key difference is readers don’t have to rely on mainstream news sites — or a handful of journalists — to tell them what they should be reading.
Such sites are like perpetual news meetings where people around the world communicate and identify the stories they are interested in. Online news headlines often appear separate from the actual news site, meaning many readers will have read the story without seeing the news site it came from or the landing pages that advocated its existence.
Some traditional journalists will argue that we need editors to make the key news decisions, but do we really? It is understandable why editors are needed in print and broadcast journalism to select stories to be printed or aired, but in the digital age where readers flock to social networks and, to a lesser extent, RSS readers to get the news they care about, the power of the news editor is diminished.
While sites like Windy Citizen and NYC.is should be praised for letting readers determine what is newsworthy, such modern approaches to the curation of news won’t be adopted overnight… meaning the news editor position is safe for now. However, journalists should get ready for people-powered journalism where the reader is best served by serving themselves.
Also on 10,000 Words:
• 6 Sites that are changing the way you follow the news
• Beyond Twitterfeed: Innovative uses of Twitter in the newsroom
• 5 Interactive maps that connect communities
• How the internet is changing how natural disasters are covered
• Why aren’t all journalists “citizen” journalists?