Do Journalists Add Value?

Jeff Jarvis challenges Journalists to ask themselves a tough question:

Journalism can’t afford repetition and production anymore.

Every minute of a journalist’s time will need to go to adding unique value to the news ecosystem: reporting, curating, organizing. This efficiency is necessitated by the reduction of resources. But it is also a product of the link and search economy: The only way to stand out is to add unique value and quality. My advice in the past has been: If you can’t imagine why someone would link to what you’re doing, you probably shouldn’t be doing it. And: Do what you do best and link to the rest. The link economy is ruthless in judging value.

The question every journalist must ask is: Am I adding value?

It’s a hard thing for a journalist or a media outlet to face.  In this age of infotainment presentation has become everything while the actual meat of the story takes a backstage for the sake of flash and bang and ratings.  But if you’re not adding anything of merit to the conversation it won’t spread, it won’t go very far and it’s hardly news.

This comes back to the continuing argument I make about newspapers as they continue to hemmorage subscriptions: specialization is key.  Do what you do well, leave the rest to the experts.  If you are able to cover something better than everyone else, if you’re really able to add value to the conversation, people will pay and reward you for it.

As Jarvis points out:

Bloggers have had to learn that, too. Just linking to and commenting on others’ reporting won’t get you much attention. Every blogger who does original reporting and tells the world something it doesn’t know but wants to know learns that this is how to get links and audience. Arianna Huffington told Guardian editor Alan Rusbridger in London months ago that she was hiring reporters because their stories get more traffic; it’s enlightened economic self-interest. This is a lesson we teach our journalism students at CUNY, when we have them add reporting to the conversations that are going on online.

Whether you’re a blogger or a new form of news organization, you’re going to have to ask with every move whether it will add value to the news ecosystem. If it doesn’t, you shouldn’t do it.

Metablogging (feeding links left and right) will only get you so far.  If you can bring something to the table, a take, some information, something that adds to the story, you’re in.  If you’re just passing folks along you’re nothing but a tollbooth on the way to something worthwhile.

Also see Jarvis’s “Cover what you do best. Link to the rest.

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