Expanding the notion of link journalism

One of the things that I’m extremely interested in expanding at The Whitman Pioneer is the use of tools like Publish2 among the newsroom. I think that the potential for link journalism is tremendous and I definitely think that Publish2 is the best among what’s out there right now. However, I have a significant problem with it in terms of how applicable it is to the future of news.

Expand Editorial Standards

Publish2’s website states that: “Free Publish2 accounts are available to journalists who maintain our editorial standards.” Furthermore, those standards read:

At a time when digital technology is rapidly transforming and expanding the practice of journalism, and allowing anyone to wield “the power of the press,” editorial standards are more important than ever. These standards are what separate journalism from marketing, PR, paid advocacy, or personal expression, which on the web are increasingly difficult to differentiate.

While I certainly agree that “digital technology is rapidly transforming and expanding the practice of journalism” I’ve come to steadily disagree with the idea that the solution is reassert editorial standards within the journalism community.

We’ve come to live in a time when almost anyone can break a news story with Twitter or their blog and where others can provide HD video coverage of an event with something that fits in their pocket. Due to this, I think that the extension of the editorial standards into civil society is more important than ever.

How does this factor into the future?

I have a hard time foreseeing a future for newspapers if they do not rely heavily upon their communities for contributions. While letters to the editor, guest columnists, and other means of involvement are great I think that the greatest potential is building a newspaper site that incorporates stories from the entire community.

Personal blogs, independent papers, art magazines, etc. all make up the coverage of a community and all carry the potential to add to the worth of a local paper. Sure, a journalist could link to this content with Publish2 and get it onto the paper’s site that way, but that kind of defeats the purpose of the community.

How much more interested in a local paper would a community be if it knew that it could submit links that would be included on the site? Sure, this could be accomplished with Delicious but it would be easier with a link-sharing tool that focusing on news stories.

Does it defeat the purpose of Publish2?

While I recognize the role that limiting membership in Publish2 to journalists plays I don’t think that expanding membership opportunities would detract from their purpose.

If the concern is that the quality of stories linked to would deteriorate then that shows an alarmingly low respect for the general news-reading community. The great thing that Publish2 has that Delicious and other tools don’t is the quality of stories. I sincerely doubt that by opening up Publish2 the quality would degrade.

Ultimately I have a hard time conceiving of the rationale behind limiting Publish2 to journalists. It certainly creates a nice little community of journalists, but so did the institutions of the old model of journalism that is collapsing by the week.

By expanding the possibilities of Publish2 the diversity of stories linked would rise and the utility of the service to news orgs would be drastically increased.

Postnote: Don’t get me wrong, I really love Publish2 and the service it offers. My hope is that the above didn’t come off too harsh and that it’s simply taken as advice for how to move the service forward. To see some of the great examples of how newsrooms are already making use of Publish2 you can see their examples page.