Politics & Media Mashup: your weekend news aggregator leads off with a look at a web site striving to become the first pure social news organization. Also included: A good week for the U-T, the paper’s plan to start cheering for a new Chargers stadium, and links to some of the week’s best stories about local, state and national politics as well as social media.
The demise of newspapers and online news sites is a familiar story line, so it’s refreshing to see someone with a bold idea that could help save journalism.
Many of you would probably recognize Ben Smith’s byline. Smith was one of POLITICO’s top reporters until last week. He left to become the new editor-and-chief at BuzzFeed.com, a site dedicated to finding and sharing the hottest content on the web.
Smith’s decision to leave one of the nation’s top political sites to run one that uses headings like “OMG” and “fail” is a head-scratcher to some.
“Smith’s move confounded reporters and media watchers, and became something of a crystallizing moment that confirmed (once again) that the web continues to obliterate old journalism models and hierarchies,” is how nymag.com put it this week.
From Adweek.com: “The partnership seemed unlikely, to say the least: Smith, who joined Politico at its launch five years ago, has made a name for himself as one of the site’s top bloggers on politics and media news. BuzzFeed, meanwhile, has made its own reputation as a source of cute animal photos and web memes.”
Smith has said the site would change a lot but would continue to be driven by social media. His goal is to create “the first pure social news organization” that melds “clear, smart, and funny journalism into the vital, churning mix that is BuzzFeed,” is how the site sums things up.
BuzzFeed says it is one of the only online publishers that receives more traffic from Facebook than Google. Traditional news sites are expected to experience similar trends as social media sites like Twitter and Facebook continue to take hold of how news is distributed and shared.
“I’m getting most of my news — not from any particular homepage — but from Twitter,” Smith recently told national media critic Howard Kurtz. “Lots of my friends who are not so plugged into politics are getting their news from Facebook and other social networks.”
Smith is hiring reporters at a time when many are being laid off.
One of his first hires: a 22-year-old history student at St. John’s University, who recently made a name for himself by finding and posting old videos of GOP presidential candidates to his YouTube and Twitter accounts. Andrew Kaczynski describes his new employer as the “viral beating heart of the web.”
Smith and his team have blanketed the presidential primary and their approach — relying heavily on tweets — is different than most.
“They’re giddily making and passing out the pieces for us to play with – and they’re doing it quickly,” says a story posted Friday on Mediaite, a news and opinion blog.
Blending social media and journalism is nothing new. Reporters in San Diego and elsewhere are skilled at using Twitter and Facebook to find story ideas, share links and connect with sources. Most, however, remain tied to daily beats, print deadlines and other traditions that have governed reporting for decades.
Smith sees the news cycle through a different prism. He wants to add to the conversations we’re having and the stories we’re sharing, and ignore the ones that aren’t generating buzz.
U-T Scores Big Win
Closer to home, the daily paper rebranded itself and had a great week thanks to two junior reporters, Ashly McGlone and Wendy Fry, and veteran reporter Jeff McDonald.
The credit District Attorney Bonnie Dumanis gave the U-T, when she announced felony charges against four current and former South Bay school officials and a contractor, can be traced directly to the reporting of McGlone, Fry and McDonald.
“Dumanis described an extensive investigation initially sparked by reports in the U-T published early last year,” the paper reported. “She singled out The Watchdog (the paper’s investigative team) for drawing attention to specific and questionable practices.”
Rostra’s Barry Jantz also deserves credit for being ahead of the curve. It’s been a while since we’ve seen a media-driven public corruption case in San Diego. Nice timing for Dumanis, who is running for Mayor, and a big win for the U-T.
U-T Hearts the Chargers
I leave you with this prediction: look for the U-T to carpet bomb the expansion plans for the San Diego Convention Center in favor of a plan that would funnel some of those tax dollars to a new Downtown stadium for the San Diego Chargers. The paper foreshadowed such a move in its New Year’s Day editorial, and its new owners have said from Day 1 that they would cheer for a new stadium.
This would likely set up a war between the hotel owners/tourism industry backing the Convention Center expansion and the Chargers. Happy New Year, San Diego!
Here are some of the week’s other top stories: