Tuesday, October 02, 2007

Information On The 'Net: Reaching The Modern Journalist

Last week, I read a short blog post on The New York Times' Dealbook about Facebook's rising value. While the post itself was fascinating, what was really interesting to me were the comments attached to the post. In them, readers were having a fairly intense discussion about putting personal information on the web, and I thought it was particularly interesting within a journalistic setting.

Should journalists make themselves available on the web?

We're seeing a trend in recent years of the newly-publicly-available journalist. That is, if the reader has something to say (or correct) about an article, he or she can e-mail the actual journalist who wrote it. Yesterday, I met Vivek Kemp of the Naples (Fla.) News, who was fairly enthusiastic about the benefits of accessibility, noting that on occasion, a reader suggests a new angle to his story that he then can pursue.

With all of that in mind -- should every journalist have a personal website?

For journalists, it seems like a no-brainer, but there's still a debate, and I think it's really just a matter of a generational shift. Looking at the comments in the Times blog post, it seems people from all walks of life are conflicted about the pros versus the cons. In the end, do you lose a sense of privacy?

Good question. So, as a journalist with a website and online profiles on select websites, I thought I'd throw my hat in the ring. My statement in the comments was as follows:

In this age of free-flowing information, nearly everyone will have identifying information about them on the Internet. I’m confident that the chance of not being indexed by Google is becoming increasingly more difficult to avoid.

The difference — which I think is generational — is in how you shape the information that comes up about you. The reason why it is useful to willingly and knowledgeably put identifying information online is, in my opinion, largely to take control of the information that appears.

You may no longer have a choice in whether or not you appear in a search. Is it so bad to put forth the information you’d prefer to be identified with?

— Posted by The Editorialiste.

Naturally, I'd love to hear what you think. Should all journalists be reachable? Should there be a directory of journalists, a white pages? And are journalists giving up too much privacy by doing so?

Or should we keep a decidedly-Timesian wall between our reporters and writers?


Missy Kurzweil said...

Keep the wall up.

I'm all for accessibility but when it comes to news, readers are already wary of journalists putting too much of themselves (and their views) into the stories. Better that reporters remain just a byline to the public eye (unless they are opinion writers -- different story.)

The Editorialiste said...

@missy: Interesting viewpoint -- you approach it from a neutrality angle.

I agree that our preferences shouldn't necessarily mix into the job description, but I do think we should be readily accessible. Ever try to contact someone at one of the major national papers? It's as difficult as playing phone tag with a government agency.

Pros and cons, certainly!

Thanks for commenting and please keep reading,

The Editorialiste.