Monday, January 03, 2005

Case Study of Media Evolution

Joe Gandelman recently posted that blogging is turning news from a pronouncement into a conversation. Today's post by Craig Westover amply demonstrates that change.

This is another chapter in the saga of Saint Paul's Maxwell school, which began in typical old media "pronouncement" fashion, when Star Tribune Columnist Nick Coleman mailed in another formulaic column bemoaning a lack of books at this school and blaming his usual suspects - Republicans and anyone who opposes tax increases.

Unexpectedly, new Pioneer Press columnist and blogger Craig Westover had the temerity to treat Mr. Coleman's pronouncement as merely an invitation to open discussion, and he did, both in his newspaper column and on his blog.

What followed between himself and Mr. Coleman is captured on Mr. Westover's blog.

Today, an interesting new development occurred. In the pages of the Pioneer Press, a letter from someone named "Gary Thompson" was published responding to one of Westover's columns on this topic. While the letter writer clearly disagreed with Mr. Westover, his letter offered some intriguing clues about how blogs are changing the way news consumers relate to even traditional media sources. Some choice tidbits:

"Readers had to investigate past Pioneer Press articles and Westover's blog to figure out what he was really talking about."

Column space being limited, they certainly did if they wanted to truly understand all the background on the matter. It wasn't very difficult either. Everything is right there for all to see on Westover's public blog. That's how blog readers investigate that kind of background every day. And apparently that model is crossing into consumers of newspapers as well; even to this hostile letter writer.

"Please, Westover, come out and fully explain that your idea of public school choice is in the form of private school vouchers."

And indeed, Mr. Westover did just that today; in terrific detail and unrestricted by column space, because he did it on his blog.

There is also the matter that this letter to the editor resembled a comment on a blog, in that it seemed to fully expect a reply. And Westover treated it no differently.

This is one of the best illustrations of the way the new media is changing the old I have seen yet. It's not an environment where newspapers are erased, as much as one where newspaper columnists must step down from their lofty soap boxes to connect with their readers. Many good journalists are recognizing this and responding - even thriving. Others continue to ridicule from their traditional perches to their detriment.

And, just for the record, Craig Westover is making one of the most persuasive cases for school choice along the way. Legacy media isn't the only thing Westover wants to change. His real target is legacy public education. And this Minnesota father is becoming quite persuaded that school choice is both achievable and very desirable in our state.

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