Wednesday, January 10, 2007

Reuters Blogs: Where New Media Touches the Wire

I usually like to call out wire stories as nearly something of a hazard for news seekers online. Sure, it's hard news in the purest form, "just the facts, ma'am," and so on, but it's sometimes arduous to weed your way through the very sameness of the coverage (for a current example, search for "Bush to send more troops to Iraq" in Google News) to find something interesting, compelling, or unique. The desire for new, fresh, and diverse angles and perspectives on the news is a large factor in the blogosphere's elevation beyond its roots in naval gazing-style journaling (somewhat ironically, the naval gaze lives on long and strong in the teen-centric social networks these days, MySpace chief among them!).

Because of the wild success of blogs – the most popular of which employ an accessible, friendly, and engaging style, with a comments area where the author converses with readers – mainstream media sites have scrambled over the last few years to add blogs to supplement their more traditional news coverage. This convergence between traditional and new media is a good thing for everyone, I'd argue, and will help to continue to raise the bar for transparency, quality, and value for blogs and traditional news sites both. Everyone is continuously encouraged and compelled to compete for eyeballs, and that's a good thing.

It's intriguing then that Reuters, as major a wire news service as they come, has a pretty sizeable section devoted to Reuters Blogs. It's pretty clear at first glance that blogging is taken seriously by the leaders of the organization as the most recent post (a week old, already ancient by blogging standards!) under the Reuters Editors blog is written by Reuters Editor-in-Chief David Schlesinger. Mr. Schlesinger doesn't go so far as to respond to those who took the time to comment, but he must be given credit nonetheless for putting in the effort.

Clearly, some areas of Reuters Blogs are more active than others. MediaFile, where reporters Eric Auchard and Ken Li hang "hang out at the corner of Media and Technology," appears to be the most vibrant, with frequent updates and nice tidbits of geeky coolness like the Spark stationary bike, which enables you to race against your friends on an LCD screen while you get your workout on.

Other blogs are looking a smidge less than active. It's a Wrap, a blog that covers entertainment news, looks to be relatively wrapped as the most recent post is dated December 12th. I'm as big a fan of Sacha Baron Cohen as they come, but Borat movie news seems kind of 2006 already, doesn't it?

There are also blogs that provide links and some pictures associated with Reuters audio interviews and one called From, which is supposed to be a place where "we invite readers to post comments on major events and send questions to newsmakers and our correspondents on the frontline" but is pretty difficult to tell what it actually is in practice. There are several diaries from a "video embed" scattered in the midst of a reporter embedded with the British army in Afghanistan, which may well be a wonderful and much needed bit of personal reporting from the warfront, but it's unfortunately buried among other stories that don't seem all that related to one another.

It will be interesting to see how Reuters plays out its experiment with blogs. One reason why Reuters Blogs seems to be less frequented and updated than it might be is because its blogs are not integrated with the rest of the site and its torrent of up-to-the-minute wire story reports. The New York Times, on the other hand, does a really nice job of mixing its article pages with links to its blogs.


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