Austin Post Nailed
Recently, a reader of my journalism and media criticism blog nailed it. The reader’s comments could have been written by a media critic, but more significantly, they were written by a news consumer. The reader castigated the Austin Post (www.austinpost.org) for its lack of objectivity and playing fast and loose with facts.
What follows started as a reply on my blog, but as I wrote, I became more and more convinced that I should elevate the observations from mere comments to media criticism addressing the content of Austin Post.
It must be noted that Austin Post is basically a blog, an amalgam of blogs. There are only a few writers who are trained journalists. The stories are, using their words, "lightly edited", meaning that bias may be obvious. I'm sure Austin Post wishes for writers of all persuasions, but it just isn't happening. The Post would like to grow, but I don't think that is possible since it has no real identity.
Yes, I post at Austin Post. I write news along with an occasional, clearly identified screed. I've written less in recent months.
Once I thought that Austin Post might be a model for future journalism. I did, however, tell them up front nearly two years ago that they needed paid writers to cover beats in addition to their editor-in-chief.
So, now, I think the Post has reached its potential. Further, if they do not tighten the reins, if they do not hire professional journalists, they may recede.
Idealist writers came to the Austin Post when it went live seeing the possibilities.
The current editor-in-chief, Karie Meltzer, does what she can with what she has, constantly trying to recruit new writers. When she came on board, Meltzer freshened the home page and changed the editorial philosophy.
Over the months some of the first writers have fallen away. I can't read their minds; I don't know why they no longer post or post with frequency.
I know of at least one original writer who now posts at the Austinist. The Austinist, however, is also a blog staffed by unpaid writers, even though they have advertising.
Research in Austin over the years says that content is king. Any medium can look great, but if it lacks solid content that makes people care, it is doomed. This observation is just as true of some local TV stations as it is of the Austin Post. Content doesn’t just happen. Reporters create content. Fewer or no reporters equals less or no viable content.
It the Austin Post wants to grow, if the Austin Post wants to be a force in Austin, if the Austin Post wants to be taken seriously, it must change.
It must pay some staff members to cover the important "news of the day". It needs original pictures and video. It needs to break news rather than repeat news—stories that people have already heard or picked up from news releases. Worse, some stories are written right out of the daily newspaper. Geez.
The Austin Post must do these things. Or, the Austin Post will continue to be only as good as the person who posts the most. It will not grow. It will not prosper. Sorry.
© Jim McNabb, 2011