Friday, July 18, 2008

Let It Rip

It took four days for Orlando Sentinel Editor Charlotte Hall to concede that the newspaper was in fact getting rid of staff and that it would continue to do so in the weeks ahead. That’s an eternity in the Internet age. Not four news cycles, but more like eight or 16. And this is as sure a sign as any that the Sentinel’s top management doesn’t get it.

Top management doesn’t get anything about the cyber world. You have to ask whether they should be the ones building the bridge to the 21st century, since they've proven beyond a doubt that they don’t understand that bridges aren’t made of ink, newsprint and printing presses anymore. Trained by years of newspaper monopoly (one of the worse things to happen to communities and, whether the editors know it or not, to newspapers too), the Sentinel continues to think it can control the news and the newscycle.

The Internet as you surf it is more than 10 years old, having been launched about 1994. Where have you been? There's a top layer of management at the Sentinel and many other newspapers that can best be described as embarrassing McCainiacs. They pretend to understand the new newsgathering operation, when in fact they don’t know how to use a computer! If you recall, McCain said a while ago that he didn’t know how to use a computer. Great Caesar’s ghost!

You may hate the blogosphere, but it’s now the first place where fake news, deception and outright lies are corrected, set straight and otherwise debunked. If you don’t understand the nature, character and pace of the blogosphere, then you don’t get anything. Sentinel editors think that by updating the news on their Web sites every so many hours that they are with it. They think that by putting up staff-written blogs that they are hip. Puhlease.

Sentinel blogs are no different from the stuff offered in the paper – of which there is a lot less because of the garish graphics. The blogs are bland as hell, and devoid of meaning. Newspapers will never earn their cyber chops until they let it rip.

Unshackle and unmuzzle your reporters. Put your editors in straight jackets, because they don’t get it either. Here's a big hint of the direction you need to go in: Don’t wait four days to tell the public something they already know.

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