Why journalists don't make ideal online community leaders

Writing for, Robert Niles argues: “There's no need for professional reporters to fear user-generated content. Someone needs to lead the Web's content communities, and journalists make the ideal candidates.”

While I agree wholeheartedly that newspaper journalists should engage as leaders in the community conversation, I think it would be a mistake to overlook the shortcomings and handicaps we inherit from our past.

So here’s a counterpoint to Niles’ essay.

Don't blame the Internet, or the owners

On the day of 60 "early retirements" from the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, columnist Bill McClellan feels like a dinosaur witnessing the end of his era, and he points to two meteoric events. One is the arrival of the Internet. The other is corporate ownership.

That's probably a popular viewpoint in most newsrooms these days. And there is some truth to it. But in the big picture it's wrong.

It's not about technology, but it is

I've been repeating myself a lot lately: "It's not about technology. It's not about technology." Nevertheless, I find myself being drawn back into the technology frequently, and last week I spent a day at the Barcelona Drupalcon, surrounded by a bunch of really smart guys (mostly guys, anyway) half my age.

I was "in the neighborhood" because BDZV, the German federation of newspaper publishers, had asked me to speak at an annual meeting. I hopped a cheap flight to BCN and slipped in a day at the four-day Drupal conference.

The world in the palm of your hand

For the last couple of days I've been playing with my latest tech toy, the Nokia "please don't call it a phone" N800.

This and similar devices, including the iPhone, have world-changing implications for newsgathering as well as publishing and distribution.

I'll get to those points shortly, but first a few words about why I went with the N800.

When commentary doesn't illuminate

In an op-ed for the big paper on the left coast, journalism professor Michael Skube complains that "the blogosphere is the loudest corner of the Internet, noisy with disputation, manifesto-like postings and an unbecoming hatred of enemies real and imagined."

"One gets the uneasy sense that the blogosphere is a potpourri of opinion and little more," he writes.