Two examples today further drive home the lesson that the journalism media no longer provides the final word on the day’s news, thanks to the Internet.
There’s a stunning story out of the St. Louis area, involving a crowdsourced online effort to get around a newspaper’s editorial decision in covering the suicide of a local teen.
Gawker Media’s Jezebel blog appears to have amplified the controversy, which was brought to the attention of the national journalism community via a letter to Jim Romenesko’s blog on Poynter.org yesterday.
Steve Pokin of the St. Charles Journal broke the story of Megan Meier, a 13-year-old who had some trouble (like many teens) but was reportedly turning her life around, in part due to the friendship of a boy she’d met on MySpace. But when the buy turned on her, insulting her, Megan was devastated, then took her life, Pokin wrote.
The twist? The boy didn’t exist. ‘He’ was the creation of the mother of one of the girl’s former friends. But the Journal didn’t name the woman, citing concerns for *her* teen daughter.
Second, I wonder if that the decision to withhold the other mother’s name didn’t help enflame the audience, by frustrating it and provoking it to do the work of discovering her identity. That frustration may have helped amplify the negative feelings toward this woman, further aggravating up the virtual lynch mob.
Interestingly, no blogger or commenter I’ve found has said anything about the other mother’s daughter, the girl the Journal was trying to protect. And I find it hard to believe that the kids in the local community didn’t already know the identity of all the persons involved. By withholding the name, the Journal might have created a larger controversy from an already tragic incident.
The Los Angeles Times this morning advanced the L.A. Auto Show, noting, quite correctly, in my opinion, that these shows are more about creating long-term buzz than immediate sales.
From the story:
All this, though, is not for you, dear reader. It’s for us, the media.
Before the show opens to the public, thousands of reporters, photographers and bloggers are wined, dined and entertained for two days by the kingpins of Detroit, Tokyo and Wolfsburg, Germany, all in the pursuit of good press.
Among the heavy hitters in town this week: Ford Motor Co. Chief Executive Alan Mulally; Nissan Motor Co. and Renault CEO Carlos Ghosn; and General Motors Corp. Vice Chairman Bob Lutz. They met and supped with journalists Tuesday, made speeches and shook hands Wednesday, and were gone, along with the reporters, by Thursday. Party over.
And the people who actually buy these cars? Little more than an afterthought.
The article misses the point that the reporting on the show does not stop at the conclusion of media day. Many visitors outside the traditional media will post photos, videos and write-ups to thousands of blogs and discussion boards during and after the show, extending and shaping the buzz that the newspaper, TV and, yes, some invited blog reporters kicked off this week.
Leaders in many industries understand that coverage opportunities now extend beyond traditional news organizations. A spokesperson for Universal Studios’ theme parks told me back in 2004, “we don’t so much care about coverage in the L.A. Times; we want to be on websites. That’s where our customers are.”
Media days are just step in a modern publicity campaign. If this year’s auto show, or any such event, is to be a success, it needs to elicit strong coverage from consumers across the Web, perhaps even more so than from the pros in print and on air.