Tuesday, February 03, 2004

If you'd asked me a week ago when we concocted this that it would go as well as it has, I'd have laughed. For the first time out, I think we showed a lot:
-- This is a viable way to cover an event, especially to augment regular coverage (the same thing might well have worked on the ice storm that paralyzed this state a week ago).
-- Managing what amounts to a large, fairly inexperienced freelance staff is possible with a relatively small staff back at the main office.
-- It's possible to move with alacrity without destroying editorial quality. The news flow manager-storybuilder-news resourcer system works pretty well.
It's not something I'd want to pile onto a regular reporter, photographer or videographer in the field. Maybe that person could e-mail a shot or two throughout the day or in the early evening before the parties get going. But strategically augmented with stringers or noneditorial staff paid a little extra, this could be a good supplement.

The drawbacks:
-- The software is still clunky and would need a redesign for news purposes. One major drawback is that the raw material must be published to the blog before it can be edited.
-- A friend of mine raised the question: What happens if someone logs in and finds a lot of posts favoring one candidate over another. Partly, this is an editorial issue; partly, in the days of all-news cable, it's an inescapable reality society is adjusting to.
-- The traditional blog format, with all the entries displayed on a main page, may be a bit overwhelming. A better design might be an interface page that breaks it up into linkable categories, or miniblogs. (Textamerica does have "categories" but the entries also always stay on the main page.)
-- The format is open to the charge of being fragmented and lacking context. Integrating it into a larger format might alleviate that.

But the bottom line is that it works; that phone cams, already ubiquitous, will only get better in quality; and that means it's an option -- only an option -- that editors and news managers need to consider (especially with things like widespread weather stories).
Been a long day. G'nite.

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