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May 19, 2008 / Toby Dayton

Despite My Best Intentions, I Just Cannot Stop Bashing The Dailies

linkedin.jpgOver the past few months, I have made numerous commitments to myself that I was going to tone down the negativity of my posts regarding the daily newspaper industry. I don’t know whether the people who read this blog are getting tired of the topic or not, but it has started to feel to me like it was becoming an old story and that I needed to broaden my viewpoints. Along the same lines, I have frequently vowed to write more posts than I currently am about topics other than the dailies. But despite my best efforts, daily newspapers just keep delivering irresistible fodder for this blog, and I continue to find myself unable to pass up the opportunity to comment.

The latest blunder occurred on the op-ed page of Saturday’s Star Tribune. I typically enjoy reading this portion of the daily and find myself in agreement with the editorials more often than not. It also remains one of the last arenas for actual journalism in the paper – original content, usually focused on local issues, with an identifiable voice and a combination of fact and opinion that makes for a compelling read. But on Saturday, there was an editorial entitled “Are You LinkedIn Yet? Does It Really Matter?” (I’d link to the editorial directly, but the Strib’s web site returned no matching search results for the search term ‘LinkedIn’ or even ‘are you linkedin yet’ in the search box on their site).

First of all, an editorial like this seems to be at least a year or two late. If the Strib is just now becoming familiar enough with the social networking tool to write about it, it further proves how far behind the times the dailies are. Secondly, the article itself is very poorly written. Sentences like the following – “The initial lure of LinkedIn is that for most of us it’s a complete waste of time, but it looks and feels like work” – make absolutely no sense whatsoever. What does that even mean? How does a task that someone feels is a waste of time have any initial lure? Are people at the Strib trying to find things to occupy their time that come across as work? The editorial also ends in mid-sentence. If this is the type of writing that we get even before the Strib cuts another $2.5 million from the newsroom budget, the paper will be bankrupt even sooner than anyone can imagine.

But most importantly, the editorial wavers between dismissing the tool as useless on one hand and possibly considering it a valuable resource on the other. At the end of the paragraph bashing the tool as a waste of time, the writer asks, “Where else can you have an intelligent e-mail discussion on leadership?” The entire piece is afflicted with similar bi-polar contradictions. It’s a complete mess of an article.

I will grant that social networking tools present some interesting challenges and issues and determining their professional, social, and entertainment value is not an easy task. I like LinkedIn as a way of keeping track of people and making interesting connections that I might not otherwise make (more detailed comments are here). I am also keenly interested in seeing the technology of social networking tools evolve over time, as it undoubtedly will. Facebook, on the other hand, is a somewhat less valuable use of my time and MySpace is not for me at all. I am still trying to figure out what to make of Twitter as I’ve only been using it for a few weeks. The pace of new entrants into the market is dizzying, and some social networking tools are better than others, especially in certain niches.

Some people will gravitate to new, emerging technologies and find enormous value in them, while others will not. There is little doubt that smart, highly informed people can come to completely different conslusions about the practical utility of social networking tools. But asking if LinkedIn matters at all in today’s world, especially when the question is posed by a media company that is attempting to build an online community, is not only myopic and naive, but borderline absurd and perfectly indicative of why daily newspapers are rapidly becoming obsolete in today’s web-centric world.

[tags]Star Tribune, LinkedIn, Social Networking Tools, Twitter, MySpace, FaceBook, Luddites Don’t Make For Good Publishers[/tags]

3 Comments

  1. Eric / May 19 2008 6:01 pm

    The article is here – http://www.startribune.com/opinion/letters/19021734.html
    Star Tribune’s search engine is one step short of horrible – thank goodness for Google.

  2. Lief Larson / May 22 2008 8:56 pm

    The paper would be better served to reach the tech savvy crowd by having section called “Feed”. It would be nothing but headlines and summaries, with links back the story online. Oh wait, that already exists, it’s called a Feed Reader.

    I’m not knocking the printed word. Heck, I read about 8 books a month and have 40 magazine subscriptions. But when it comes to news appetite, I still feel hungry after picking up any print newspaper. The personalization capabilities with web-based feeds makes me look at the content in newspapers as off-target to my personal preferences. What is that?…because the desk editors sit and pick what’s news. In cyberspace, I get to choose. That’s just too hard to compete with.

    – Lief
    http://lieflarson.businesscard2.com

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