CoverItLive… before it’s dead.

Speed is valued in news delivery, but not so much so that the public no longer wants information and ideas adapted to their news needs. If that were the case, journalists would really be out of a job. One could just bring in CoverItLive, the software that makes live blogging an engaging online event, and let reporters either choose to be the stenographers or find a new occupation.

Surely no one really believes the downturn in news media as we once knew them will get this far. However, it is plausible that, as the CiL Web site claims, “live blogging is going to be a critical piece of web based reporting in the future” and CiL may very well be one of the best tools in this effort.

The thing about tools is that they can shape how individuals view their work. Abraham Maslow said in 1962, “When the only tool you have is a hammer, it is tempting to treat everything as if it were a nail.” Such over-reliance on familiar tools is frequently called the law of the instrument or even Maslow’s hammer.

This point is of primary relevance to anyone learning or considering the effects of new media tools on journalism practices. There is a human tendency to subordinate social activity to technology, as if innovation is always brought about by some sacred, authoritative design, giving society no say in the matter. A common example is building highways, which forces citizens to drive cars, to commute, to live miles from the grocery store, school, family, etc.

Now we have the information superhighway called the Internet. Without detracting from the communication marvel that it is, one must wonder how cognizant journalists are of the way news is adapted to the Internet. Attempts range from mimicking patterns of old mediums (see this Newsweek must read that talks about the iTablet and more journo musings) to abandoning story-telling for social networking media. Without a framework to inform evaluations of purposeful tools, we just keep hammering at every new method as if it were a nail.

For what are the nail and the hammer metaphors? I don’t know. Perhaps commercial interests and advertisements. Perhaps infotainment and celebrity news. Perhaps Nielsen ratings and gimmicky quasi-news. It is not always best to define symbols concretely.

This goes back to my post on the purpose of media.

How, then, does one evaluate the purpose of liveblogging and media tools such as CoveritLive? How could news makers know without first assessing the needs of the community by consulting with members? The Anniston Star in Alabama provides a wonderful example in hosting a live Q&A with the mayor.

It doesn’t take genius to figure out what a community needs to better its environment, but asking is even simpler than surmising. Still better yet, the Anniston Star shows that the media can just let the towns people ask and simply listen and watch. Now… what happens next?



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