Blogs connect freelancers to local press

The Society of Editors has paid tribute to the online phenomenon of as digital vehicles that are increasingly bringing freelance writers to the heart of local journalism.

Speaking to local, national and online editors, Nick Turner, deputy editor at Carlisle’s News & Star, said blogs are helping regional press connect with freelance contributors like never before.

He said Brits increasingly live in a world which revolves around the internet, but conceded, “more people are familiar with the term dogging than blogging.”

This is despite the fact that cyberspace now hosts 16 million blogs or online diaries, with one in three people under 24 making their views known from a blog or a website.

Turner said his newspaper had benefited from a network of virtual district correspondents, recruitment of freelance writers and hearing from people not often featured in newspapers.

These virtual correspondents provide local newspaper editors with a unique emotional angle on their local patch and often result in increased traffic to the newspaper’s website, Turner reportedly said.

However the optimism was tempered by news heavyweights such as Steve Egginton, of Worldwide Media Ltd, who warned the traditional print industry will suffer a slow demise if it ignores the importance of the Web.

He said the internet was even enabling people to make their own TV programmes – all they need is a camera and a website. He added: ‘If newspapers stick to ink – they will sink.”

The Society’s debate about blogs, entitled ‘Read it, watch it, hear it, surf it,’ also heard from Asha Oberoi, head of Multi-Media for the Press Association, who said newspapers should "embrace the opportunity for new digital platforms."

The keynote address of the conference came from Les Hinton, chairman of News International, who said legislation, subscription-free websites and blogs poses the biggest challenge to British newspaper editors.

Citing recent online coverage of Hurricane Katrina, Mr Hinton said bloggers were responsible for supplying audiences with “bad information” in the aftermath of the disaster.

“We must be the experts - on all relevant platforms- at getting it right. At being reliable,” Hinton told the audience of editors.

“Citizen blogs are stealing audiences - or at least audience time. Their tanks are on our lawns. And this confident, brave new world requires new disciplines and skills.”

Despite the good news that eight of 10 Brits read a daily newspaper, print industries and their captains, namely newspaper proprietors and editors will need to learn about search engine optimisation (SEO), Hinton added.

“If you haven't heard of it [SEO] yet, you soon will,” he said.

“Very simply, it means tweaking technology to guarantee your newspapers are well read online. It's the 21st century version of worrying about where your newspaper is displayed in the local newsagent.”


19th October 2005

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