Over the past few days, I’ve been interviewing Rex Sorgatz, an executive producer for MSNBC.com, Wired contributor, and creator of the local community blog, MNspeak. A pioneer of “placeblogging,” he spoke about the difficulties for newspaper journalists making the shift online, “big media” adopting a “small media mentality,” how the Star Tribune’s Buzz.mn blogger James Lileks is doing, and the future of citizen journalism. Read it all at Minnesota Monitor. Here’s an excerpt:
Sorgatz: Looking at the online media landscape right now, I see one sector that no one has really figured out: local. There are good publications around every single vertical market imaginable, but there are only a handful of good local blogs. If you follow this industry, you’ve read about some of the attempts at local citizen journalism. American Journalism Review recently had a story about the failure of the more prominent citizen journalism sites. But all of those failures have one common characteristic: they were started by former Big J newspaper people. And that reveals the other quality that is required to make “placeblogging” work: sexiness. It’s a crass way to think of publishing, but it’s an essential quality. City Pages in the early ’90s, The Strib in the early ’80s — these had a certain kind of sexiness. (My definition of sexiness: hot content with a strong voice that leads to people talking about the author and engaging with the publication.) I just don’t know if these new citizen journalism projects will have the sexiness to gain audience. It’s like old media dressed up in new media clothes.
It looks as though a lot of recently unemployed newspaper people are trying to move online. Of course they should, but I worry they won’t create anything that feels fun, that has the vigor and excitement of Facebook, that thinks about itself like Digg, that has a relationship with its audience like Newsvine. I predict they will all make the same mistakes: they will talk to their audience rather than with it, they will view “comments on stories” as their big statement about cracking open journalism, and they will vainly try to move the newspaper model onto the internet. And they will likely fail for not understanding the power of the medium: networked communities creating a collaborative news experience.