04 April 2008

The Journalism Counteroffensive Starts Here...

Serious journalism can thrive in the future if publishers and their staff act more boldly, says the editor of American Journalism Review.

And to put his money where his mouth is, Carl Sessions Stepp offers up a raft of innovative ideas which newspapers could utilise to improve their online content.

In his article “Maybe it is time to panic: Why news organisations have to act much more boldly if they are to survive”, Stepp outlines the challenges faced by the industry.

The editor and university lecturer suggests that publishers should respond by launching a counteroffensive to “preserve serious journalism”.

He says: “The challenge is this: News organisations need to think more imaginatively, turn duress into motivation and make their content irresistible and their business operations unstoppable.”

And here are some of his ideas for the counteroffensive:

• Create an “online information superstructure” via a double home page – one screen for editorial content and the other acting as a gateway to services and resources relevant to your audience.

• Adopt a more “conversational tone” through blogs from both staff and users, increase the number of analysis pieces and “behind-the-scenes essays”.

• Create user-friendly search services and archives, where content could be grouped by location or topic.

• Offer interactive guides to events, films and shows where users can submit their own ratings and reviews.

• Online discussion forums such as a book club.

• Competitions for the “funniest, weirdest, most helpful or most outrageous local images”.

• Enable users to “web-cam their neighbourhood news” and offer “stand-up comedy bits on the news”.

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