Friday, October 14, 2011

The curious case of a hyperlocal site's decision to cut out freelancers

What a huge difference a year makes. Only 365 days in the calendar, but encapsulated in an individual's life and that is a significant chunk of time. A year ago I was finishing up my degree at Cal Poly and also working pretty steadily for both the local paper, stringing football games and covering events for a start up hyperlocal website owned by a huge media company.

Said hyperlocal site has recently slashed its freelancer budget to a bare minimum, virtually eliminating correspondents for most of its branches in California, a once flourishing network with more than 80 sites covering communities from Agoura Hills to Walnut Creek CA.

So I guess I was one of the fiscal casualties of the site's restructuring of its model of delivering content to readers which once relied heavily on a local editor updating content with many freelancers working under said editors, and which now has been reduced to more of a true content farm, pulling information from various sources on the web under one unbrella, with editors aggregating content from other newspapers and sites.

Well, I am not here to debate the merits of such a model, whether a true media source develops more original content versus the model now presently being used by the website. What I do want to convey is that working for this site for nearly a year, and seeing how it operates under the shrinking fiscal conditions of a struggling economy presents a good lesson and a good overview of how media operates in the digital age.

The shame of it is that journalists have been operating for a while now in a market which has very little idea of how to charge for content, a puzzle this author says you would have thought they would have solved years ago.

I can see why so many people are out protesting down in Wall street and throughout the nation in the Occupy WS movement, and though they have been criticized by some for having no clear focus in their message, at least they are willing to get out there and try to engage people in a debate about change that is necessary for the middle class to survive.

Yet, that is a much broader social issue. As for me, I have gone back to freelancing prep sports for my local newspaper. I am on my way to cover a game now, and though the money is not as good as it is on the web, maybe there is more stability and more security in mainstream media outlets such as the good old neighborhood newspaper. At least for the time being. What the future holds is anyone's guess.

Thursday, September 01, 2011

Tweeting high school football

I decided to revive this blog because even though I started it last year, I never really did anything with it, but I believe that the merging of journalism and technology is more relevant a topic now than it was a year ago.

Case in point, tonight I was tweeting the score of the South Hills-Colony game in the San Gabriel Valley. I'm pretty beat, five hours ago I was sitting in the press box at Covina District Field, awaiting the start of the game between the Huskies and the Titans, and taking in the magic that is the fresh start of a new season.

However, after driving back to the newsroom to construct a game story and waiting on editors to proof and post the article online, I have grown weary. It has been a long hot day.

I also have to say that I am pretty rusty covering games, even though it is starting to come back to me, this wasn't the best structured story, but I am hoping that I get better as the new season progresses. It has been a year since I was filing weekly stories for the Tribune.

Tweeting the score of the game on a quarter by quarter basis proved to be both a challenge on my smartphone and a novelty. I found it kind of hard to find a pause between the action to log into my account and tweet, though after the first time it was easier because I was already logged in and feeding directly to the newspaperls blog.

I am wondering how many journalists are now doing this on a frequent basis? Tomorrow I am going to be taking photos and covering the Glendora vs. Charter Oak game at Citrus College for and I believe I will try the Twitter experiment once again. There is something very appealing about using social media to our advantage and getting the word out immediately to the readership and to the communities we serve.

The home team lost 30-29. You can't win them all as the saying goes.