Can Twitter save journalism?

Don’t be silly, I’m not suggesting that at all. But it still cracks me up how journalists latch on to what they think might be the new thing — i.e. Twitter — when there’s no evidence that it will actually stick around and become something that regular people — you know, ones who don’t spend eight hours a day online or texting on their cell phones — will actually use. Even Twitter’s CEO admits that:

Where Stone will say things like, “We’re here to impact people’s lives; we own up to our leadership position here,” Williams admits that he has trouble getting his mom to figure out his service. He is also wary of all the publicity Twitter has generated, mostly from nervous journalists striving to stay relevant in a free-information age.

You can forgive journalists their Twitter obsession. If you haven’t noticed, we’re in an economic clusterphooey of historic proportions, and many analysts are blaming the media’s failure, in particular, to create information-sharing services like Twitter. But Twitter isn’t making any money yet, either.

It’s a little irritating, to be honest. Right now, journalists are spreading themselves too thin to actually be any good. Learn how to put stuff online? Sure! Twitter? OK! How about blogging tidbits that won’t make it into the paper? Sounds great!

What a load of crap. And FYI, I don’t text, much less Twitter. I do enough in my spare time.

Newspaper editors: STOP THE MADNESS. Stop making newspaper reporters at your local paper squeeze 16 hours of work into 8 hour days — which more often than not doesn’t work, and often translates into 16 hour days. Trust me, I would know, although I stopped being a reporter long before the madness of reporters being asked to blog, produce online and Twitter, in addition to reporting 2-3 stories a day. It’s madness. These people will be no good after 2 months of 16 hour days. No wonder they’re all going into PR, law and urban planning.

Everyone is trying to come up with a plan to save journalism. Steve Brill has a really extensive plan, that actually doesn’t sound so bad. The LAT just profiled, but concedes that the model doesn’t exactly produce quality journalism just yet. I forget how I found NowPublic, but it’s basically Digg meets citizen journalism. Will any of these actually be a long-term success? I have no idea; I don’t know the future.

But one thing I do know is that everyone needs to stop freaking out. Pick up one thing you really have a thing for — blogging, WordPress, Twitter, vlogging, whatever — and keep at it, no matter what anyone else says, no matter if no one seems to actually be looking at it. Honestly, all that matters is that you continue to get your benefit from it. In fact, that’s what my old desk neighbor, Rich DeMuro is doing now — got laid off from our station, but is back less than two months later with a YouTube show. And I actually think its better than what he used to do at our station.

Also, has anyone ever thought that maybe newspapers should get back to their original purpose? Stuff like reporting local crime stories and giving readers the police blotter, telling us about local businesses (Franklin Avenue just lamented the other day about how my old paper, the Glendale News-Press, hardly ever reports on its local celebrities and corporations), writing about city government and local politicians, carrying local classified ads  — I know Craigslist has killed it, but there’s something to be said about the quality of the ads I find in local papers versus the ones I find off Craiglist. Remember, except in NY, posting job and rental ads is free, so you get what you pay for. Which is often a lot of crap here in L.A. and Ventura County.