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TechCrunch: journalism’s heretics?

MG SieglerMG Siegler of TechCrunch has published a really fascinating post on his personal blog, responding to the current brouhaha around Mike Arrington, TechCrunch and AOL. I’m less interested in the corporate politics of the debate than I am in just how differently the site operates to traditional journalism businesses:

First and foremost, the concept of an “editor” at TechCrunch is essentially just a title and nothing more. Generally speaking, neither Mike nor Erick (TC’s two “co-editors”) are overlords that dictate what everyone else covers. With a few exceptions (mainly for newer writers), no one person even reads posts by any other author before they are posted. 
Traditional journalists may be appalled to learn this. But this is a big key of why TechCrunch kicks their ass in tech coverage. We’re fast and furious in ways they can’t be, because they’re adhering to the old rules. Are there benefits to those old rules? Sure. But in my opinion, the benefits of the way we work far outweighs the benefits of the way they work.
This is, from a traditional journalism perspective, tantamount to heresy. But sometimes heresy is the statement that changes the debate and allows new things to happen. The traditional priesthood of journalism will be stoking the fires when they read this:

Even if it’s just on a subconscious level, each of these authors must know that the future of their business looks a lot more like TechCrunch than The New York Times. Love it or hate it, that’s the truth. It’s inevitable.

Well, perhaps. But the future rarely turns out exactly as the heretics predict, either…
Update: Alan’s noticed the same thing, too, and has some interesting thoughts on the philosophy and finances of the TechCrunch model
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Subbing in the Age of Live Stories

Karl’s busy responding to comments on his post about subbing. But I think he saved the most important bit of his post for last:

One of the differences between the web and print media is that the
web can be used for interactive, real-time experiences that have more
in common with a live event such as a conference or a group discussion
than with publishing.

So, as I frequently tell our journalists,
when deciding how to behave, it is often useful to ask the question:
“what would we do if this were really a live event, with the audience
in the same room as the journalists?” The implications go far wider
than simply whether or not to sub.

And that’s the concept that’s most often missed in discussions about subbing for the web. Much of the content that goes onto the web isn’t a finished product, but a live object, that will be developed, commented on and linked to. And rethinking subbing for the web will have to take that into account. How do you add value as a sub, to something that continues to change after it’s published?

Journalists Versus Sub-Editors: It’s War

One of the delights of the social media age is seeing the dark secret of our trade dragged out of the newsroom and into the unblinking gaze of the blogging world. Take, for example, the relationship between reporters and sub-editors. Once, this was a cosy, happy relationship. The hacks went into the field, found the stories and phoned in the details. And the subs actually wrote the damn thing.

And then came the 80s, and desktop publishing, and suddenly the reporters and the subs were in the same room. The reporters had computers on their desks and, horror of horrors, were writing copy. The cold war between sub and hack began. What was at stake? Final control of the copy.

The conflict was waged in a thousand little skirmishes on page proofs. Subbing marks tracked the battle for supremacy. Editors watched helplessly, like ineffectual peace-keepers in a covert war. The best subs could polish a piece to such perfection that the journalist didn't even realise how little it resembled their original work. The worst would butcher it into a state where no-one had any idea what it was about.

But the war was silent, hidden. Few, if any, of the readers had any idea of the battle fought over the words in their hands. But all that has changed.

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