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Old media raises a fuss over web aggregators

ANDREW W. GRIFFIN
Oklahoma Watchdog
Friday, September 24, 2010

OKLAHOMA CITY — It must sting a little bit for the “old media” to see the growing trend of news-and-information seekers going to websites like the Drudge Report, The Huffington Post, WorldNetDaily, Infowars and, dare I say it, Oklahoma Watchdog, when they seek hard-hitting news stories.

Indeed that “sting” has chafed Leonard Downie Jr., the former executive editor and current vice president-at-large of The Washington Post. The Post, a paper that seems to live in the past, has a website that has been trounced by the more popular Huffington Post, a left-leaning news and entertainment website. HuffPo also blew past The New York Times website in terms of traffic earlier this year.

Downie does not like the above-mentioned websites. At a lecture in London, which addressed “old media vs. new media,” Downie sounded a bit annoyed about news aggregators, calling them “parasites living off journalism produced by others.”

As noted at Politico yesterday: “The aggregators fill their websites with news, opinion, features, photographs and video that they continuously collect – some would say steal – from other national and local news sites, along with mostly unpaid postings by bloggers who settle for exposure in lieu of money,” Downie said. “Though they purport to be a new form of journalism, these aggregators are primarily parasites living off journalism produced by others. They attract audiences by aggregating journalism about special interests and opinions reflecting a predictable point of view on the left or right of the political spectrum, along with titillating gossip and sex. Revealing photo of and stories about entertainment and celecrities account for much of the highly touted web traffic to the Huffington Post site, for example.”

As someone with a degree in journalism and over a decade of newsroom experience, I can say that my sites – Oklahoma Watchdog and Red Dirt Report – are aggregators, Red Dirt Report moreso than the original-content-heavy Oklahoma Watchdog.We break a lot of stories here at Oklahoma Watchdog and we have seen our traffic rising every month.

A long time ago, in the age of Lewinsky, Matt Drudge produced original content. He doesn’t write much anymore. Still, the Drudge Report is one of the biggest sites in the world and if you are linked to that site your site will get slammed with traffic. Isn’t that a good thing?#

WorldNetDaily is a great aggregator. They also produce hard-hitting original pieces and investigative articles. I don’t think the “old media” gives WorldNetDaily a whole lot of credit.

Infowars and Prison Planet, two sites operated by Austin, Texas filmmaker and radio host Alex Jones, are two huge sites as well. Jones has a team of writers and researchers who produce original content. The sites also aggregate news stories. Some news stories written by this reporter have appeared on those informative sites.

Again, if you’re newspaper site is smart, they will embrace the aggregators, as long as they link back to your site and give full credit for the story to the original source. It’s really pretty plain and simple.

And if you read some of the comments at the end of the Politico story that discusses this controvesy, you will see one written by “HayOrBrains” that notes our local paper, The Oklahoman:

“Many regional newspapers, such as E.K. Gaylord’s Daily Oklahoman, are nothing but mouth pieces for local elites. These papers bury on the back page any news which doesn’t fit their ideological litmus paper tests. Newspapers like that are worse than useless.

Print journalism has failed in the USA.”

Indeed, that is true in many instances. But then I think this is an important discussion to have. I think there is a place for both “old media” and “new media.” Simply let the market work itself out. And of course the “elites,” including President Obama, are open to bailing out struggling newspapers giving “struggling news organizations tax breaks if they were to restructure as nonprofit businesses,” according to The Hill.

But as Rich Tehrani wrote, linked at Business Insider, “Nobody wants to bail out newspapers, especially not readers.”
Writes Tehrani: “(T)his country and every newspaper in the US is here today because of the free market system which always allows the best and brightest to succeed.”
Mr. Downie should take that sentiment to heart. The Washington Post has done quite well over the decades. Don’t insult legitimate aggregators and websites who are trying to provide all sorts of information. Embrace them and let the market take its course.
And if you are interested in signing a petition to stop the proposed “journalism bailout,” go to www.stopgovernmentmedia.com. As we have noted here and at The Franklin Center, if the government is allowed to influence the media, then no longer will journalists be able to report credibly on stories that matter to the people, but only on what matters to the elected officials.”
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