Friday, May 8, 2009

Playing For Change: Song Around the World "Stand By Me" a possible model for local news organizations willing to experiment

A lesson in this video for newspapers? I think so.

I may be late to this great video, but if you haven't seen it, you must. What the people at "Playing for Change" have done with the song "Stand by Me" suggests an exciting possibility for newspapers that want to bring a sense of understanding and connection to their readers.

Journalism at its best builds a common sense of humanity among different people. That's one of the reasons I admired the work Melissa Block did this week on NPR's All Thing Considered program from China. How could a parent anywhere else in the world not put him or herself into the shoes of the Chinese mothers and fathers who lost a child in the earthquake last year? Block brought people together with her reporting. It was impossible not to feel a common sense of humanity with complete strangers half way around the world.

Well, if you look at the "Stand by Me" video I think you'll see an example of how local journalists could work together to do something similar, if perhaps not always so profound, without ever traveling. And this approach could involve readers, who could provide their own images and video for the projects.

Take something as simple as going to work in the morning. Or breakfast. If either topic was linked across the country or the world it would make for what I think could be a fascinating experience. And it could exist on every participating newspaper's (or news organization's) Web site.

That would be something I'd look forward to finding on a Web site. And I could see it having applicability in print, too.

Newspapers need to look outside their own businesses for models of what they should be trying today.


  1. John,

    It sounds like what you are suggesting here is a model similar to Wikipedia (GASP) or perhaps something similar to the open collaborative model of open-source software. I think you are absolutely right. This is the model that is going to work. My question revolves around how to make this model profitable.

    I think the problem comes from the "good enough" mentallity of this decade. People are willing to settle for what is "good enough." Encyclopedia Brittanica may be a notch higher in the quality department, but Wikipedia is "good enough." Microsoft Office might have a few extra feature compared to OpenOffice, but OpenOffice is "good enough" and free to boot.

    What I see happening here is a stratification of journalism. You will have the "good enough"/free journalism for the masses based on an open collaborative model and an ecosystem of sites similar to wikiepedia or everyblock that aggregate user-contributed content (e.g. blogs) and then high quality investigative journalism/business intelligence (e.g. for companies and individuals who need that extra level of quality.

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