Wednesday, September 28, 2005

Yahoo Sets its Sites on Conflict

You've probably seen the coverage Yahoo! is getting about its foray into original journalistic content thanks to Kevin Sites. Since Yahoo has, until now, been little more than an aggregator, the traditional media companies, many of whom have content distribution deals with the Internet giant, are rightfully nervous.

But this misses some of the point. Sites is a respected, long-time journalist. It seems what Yahoo actually did here was to enable sites to expand on something he had been doing: a blog.

What's even more interesting is the way, in which, Yahoo is approaching journalism. Rather than going after the "big stories" by sending in a big-name journalist to cover the big news story of the day/week/month (hurricanes come to mind), Sites and his team (yes, there is more than one person here) have a schedule of conflict hot spots that includes such places as Somalia, Chechnya, Afghanistan and Sierra Leone.

This is what every true journalist wants to be doing, telling the stories that don't get told. Going to the places that US political interests tend to ignore, then helping people places like London, New York, Boston, Boise and Los Angeles better understand what is going on. This comes from the Hotzone:

We will be aggressive in pursuing the stories that are not getting mainstream coverage and putting a human face on them. We will not chase headlines nor adhere to pack journalism but vigorously pursue the stories in front of and behind the conflict to give readers a more complete picture.
If this holds true, then what we're seeing is a niche that is going to be wonderful to watch: true journalism.

In yesterday's Wall Street Journal, the Middle Seat column focused on the recent JetBlue flight that landed with its landing gear twisted. Part of the decision that had to be made on the flight was whether to let the passengers watch their own drama unfold on TV. Frankly, from an aviation standpoint, the malfunction was a semi-routine issue. A plane is designed to land like this, if necessary, and the personnel on the ground had plenty of time to react.

Yet, there was Paula Zahn on CNN going on and on about all the horrible things that might happen. While the Journal story talked about the affect this may have on passengers in flight, it was accepted that CNN's rampant, depressing and alarmist speculation was just part of the process.

Frankly, it shouldn't be. The only reason the story had any play was because it happened during the right time (east coast prime time) and they had live video. If it happened at midnight pacific time, it would have been a small piece in the paper and a short voice over during the morning shows.

I hope the Hotzone succeeds, and I hope more properties follow Yahoo's lead in promoting true journalism.

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