What If News Organizations Had Their Own Gawker-Like Sites?

Doug Fisher, a journalism instructor at the University of South Carolina, shared a constructive and unconventional idea this week amid the furor over Ira Shapira’s Aug. 2 Washington Post column in which Shapira bemoaned how Gawker had excerpted his July 9 article.

Fisher wrote on his “Common Sense Journalism” blog:

“… The fact that close to 10,000 people viewed [Gawker's summary of Shapira's article] instead of reading [the original] 1,500-word tome [on WashingtonPost.com] ought to raise the question of why the WaPo doesn’t have its own Gawker-type site excerpting its material. Maybe consumers are telling us something, namely that a lot of them don’t want to read a river of text on something like Shapira’s story on a millennial generation consultant because they have other things to do with their lives. Gawker et al. wouldn’t survive if they didn’t meet a need.”

I think Fisher makes a good point. While many journalists are attached to long-form stories delivered in a traditionally detached and serious tone, that doesn’t necessarily align with how more and more people actually consume media and news.

So why not offer both approaches on a news site? Rather than wait for (or actively solicit) popular venues such as Gawker or “The Daily Show” to imbue labor-intensive, in-depth reporting with mass appeal, news organizations could instead present their own briefer, more lighthearted takes on longer stories and increase the chances of driving traffic and engagement to the original stories.

Not always taking news so seriously does not necessarily devalue or undermine a news organization’s work or mission.

(Thanks to Simon Owens for highlighting Gawker’s claim that Washington Post publicists routinely attempt to attract Gawker’s attention.)

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