Temple: Living History

One of the best minds in journalism, right now, belongs to John Temple, currently the editor of community news/online start-up Peer News in Hawaii and formerly of the Rocky Mountain News in Denver. After that daily newspaper closed last year, Temple seemed to fully embrace the future of journalism as non-printed product.

Last week, he gave a speech ostensibly about Peer News and its place in the unstable Hawaiian news market. But really, the speech focused on how Peer News fits into the future news landscape, which is online and mobile, not printed. I have watched Peer News (lustily, from afar) since Temple signed on a couple of months ago. I like a lot of what they are doing, especially the energy devoted to civic engagement. I especially like that he calls reporters “hosts,” which seems to be an easy way of saying that these journalists will facilitate conversation in the community by providing facts, balance and perspective, but they won’t be stuck behind a one-way mirror. They will engage the community.

Hyper-local sites seem to be the nexus of thought for reinventing news, which makes sense: return to the basics, and build from there. I’m slightly skeptical that a true hyper-local site depending on citizens will succeed in the long run because attention can waver quickly. But I do think they could be a very valuable core offering for online news sites — their new niche, so to say.

One thing, in particular, caught my eye in Temple’s outline of his talk:

We’re taking a more holistic approach to news…We’ll take issues that we know people care about or are important to the community and provide in-depth reporting that can serve as a resource for readers. That resource will be a living history, something that evolves as understanding of the issue develops..That’s different from the traditional approach of reporting isolated stories reflecting a single point in time….And it’s different from an archive, a collection of the stories a news organization has written, like the archives on important topics you might find on many news sites

That is inline, almost exactly, with one of my key ideas for any future journalism endeavor, what I call “three-dimensional news.” It’s not 3D news because of the fancy multimedia, it’s 3D because it provides breadth and depth for a reader. It also gives them as much or as little as they want, which I think is important to develop loyal readers. Think about it in a sports context: Any site can give scores and headlines, but certain sites set themselves apart by providing trusted analysis, unique rankings, or add-ons like gambling insights or fantasy rankings.

If you care about the future of journalism, read Temple. He is easily one of the top five journalism bloggers, at least in my opinion.

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