Newser; or How to Bite the Hand That Feeds

The great debate of the future of journalism seems always to circle back to, “Who will instigate the original reporting and how will it be afforded?” The answers to that question are numerous and multifaceted.

Michael Wolff believes he knows the answer.  Wolff; journalist, author, pundit, and entrepreneurer, is a co-founder of Newser, a sleek and innovative news aggregator launched in Oct. of 2007.  Wolff, known for his outspoken nature, is fond of announcing his desire to put newspapers out of business, as is evidenced in a video on the site’s “About” page.

Newser is built around the popular concept that people are strapped for time.  They offer summaries of staff curated news content offered in a forever-updating grid.  It’s splashy design, smart aggregation, and concise stories are constructed for today’s newshound.  Brevity and regularly refreshed content are built for today’s shortened attention spans and constant internet connectivity.

But a quick perusal of the Newser site leaves one confused.  On the right of each story they list their sources, which are most often the big media outlets Wolff has set out to destroy.  If his vanquishing goes as planned, one must wonder, “Where will he get his information to summarize?’

Wolff’s brashness has not gone unchecked.  A foil has arisen in the New York Times‘ David Carr.

Carr stands of the opinion that someone will need to pay for  initial reportage and sites like Newser have nothing in their business model to cover these expenses.  Therefore, they are reliant on those whom they are chastising, as Carr discussed extensively in this discussion at NYU in 2008.

Rob Fishman of the Huffington Post, disected the argument between Wolff and Carr in a May column.  The results where anything but shocking.  They showed that Carr’s reportage was fueled by research and interviews, whereas Wolff’s was, revealingly, loaded with links to other newspapers (Carr’s Times extensively) and other Newser articles which are primarily summaries of newspaper content.

To pretend we know where journalism is going from here would be an exercise in futility.  To pretend that newspapers are going the way of the dinosaur, as suggested by Wolff, would be equally as foolhardy.


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