Wednesday, December 9, 2009

There will be no turning of the page

Google Living Stories. Wow.

The Washington Post, The New York Times and Google have awkwardly joined hands to create this masterpiece. Or, what looks like it could be a masterpiece — something that won't be "saving" journalism but is definitely desired and, for the most part, expected. It's one of those things that feels like it must have been around for a while because you've already been creating something like it yourself, with RSS feeds, customization of home pages, etc.

And now, voila. Unification of coverage for a single story or concept, all on one dynamic and well-organized web page.

We have come together.


Well, according to The Washington Post's piece on the project:

Post editors are concerned that the overall process could eat up valuable staff time unless it is made more automated.

During the process a half-dozen Google staffers spent three days in the Post newsroom in May, trailing editors and reporters with notepads and video cameras like some archaeological expedition. "The culture of Google is a culture of engineers," Brenner says. "We exist in different worlds."

The part of me that is enamored with the idea of Living Stories is unfortunately the same part of me that, guilt-ridden, chooses the latte over the newspaper and instead reads the cafe's copy of the paper while drinking the latte. But the journalist part of me wonders how this is going to help journalism stay afloat. In particular, as has been a huge point of discussion for nearly a year: investigative journalism. It's wonderful for consumers, but will this pay the professional journalists? No. (I'm sorry, but the phrase "citizen journalist" still irks me. TIME magazine's recent piece on is a must-read if you share—or don't share—my point of view.)

My opinion on Living Stories is similar to what Richard Kendall's expressed in his comment on an online journalism blog:

I hate it and love and bow down before it at the same time. This sort of advanced story curation is what news sites have been crying out for.

What we will lose in this is what we have already been losing in the process of transferring journalism from print to print+screen — the precious notion of turning our heads 1/4 inch and finding a completely different article that catches our interest. An article that we may glance over, yes — but also one that may inspire us, anger us or encourage us to explore our own values. An article that we never would have found.

Now, we find Google ads.

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