Building Bridges between MSM and Digital New Media

Discussion convened: 1/12/07 @ The Cotton Museum, Memphis

Chris Peck, Editor of The Commercial Appeal began with this question: `So, how can a bridge be built between the Mainstream Media and the New Digital Media Word?

Beth Lawton: digital Media Manager, Newspaper Association of America was the first to respond: “Well, first the MSM editors have to cross the fear bridge. They have to get over their fears of the new media. Then, they have to cross the skills bridge. They need to know what the capabilities are of the new digital media.”

“The digital media group needs to get over the trust bridge. They don’t trust the MSM, and in fact, sometimes hold them in contempt.”

“So, what you have are cultural barriers between the two groups that need to be overcome. It’s an emotional challenge for both.”

Some examples offered

The group then offered up some examples of where bridges are currently being built between MSM and Digital Media. They suggested both groups to explore such media outlets as:


Completely reorganize newsroom

Karen Magnuson, editor of The Democrat & Chronicle, Rochester, New York: “I think it will be necessary to completely reorganize the newsroom. WE will have to make sure the MSM newsrooms understand and then learn what skills are needed in a digital newsroom. It has been helpful inside Gannett to think about the jobs that newsrooms need to be able to do. When we have thought about those jobs we have identifed these:

  1. Be a multimedia center.
  2. Create A digital desk that delivers brief news items in a timely fashion.
  3. Create a public service center. This talks about how citizens can think about the First Amendment, investigative journalism, public documents.
  4. Build community conversations. Talk with and engage the community in topics of public interest.
  5. Enhance the local news desk. More hyper local news.
  6. Create custom content. This means more non-daily publcations
  7. Build a data desk. Create and update databases, calendars, all in easy to manipulate electronic forms.

Chris Nolan, a Web journalist and editor of
“It’s important for MSM journalists to understand that much of the new digital software is much easier to learn. So, it would be much easier now to ask for volunteers to help learn the skills of a digital newsroom and put this digital newsroom in the middle of the MSM newsroom.”

Mac McKerral, associate professor in the School of Journalism and Broadcasting, at Western Kentucky University: “And, going the other way, we need to identify the journalistic skillsets needed for digital journalists and citizen journalists. A blog isn’t the same thing as a byline. Those who blogs need to have some understanding of what is expected to be credible – spell names correctly, have a beginning, middle and end to what you are saying, don’t be too personal, etc.”

Hanson Hosein, producer of `Independent America’ and a former network TV journalist:

I think the key to the future of media will be to build a sense of community.

Three paths forward

Chris Peck, The Commercial Appeal:
“To me it seems that there are three paths ahead that journalists will follow:

  • One will be a path leading from within existing MSM newsrooms. This path will lead to a transformation of existing media into digital media.
  • A second path will lead to entirely new business models for supporting journalism and journalists. This will likely lead to a New Media business that is supported in very different ways.
  • A third path will be the citizen journalist. These will be weekend warriors who have other jobs but use their laptops and cell phones to be journalists for a day, or week, or a month.

All three groups need to cross the bridge of understanding each other.

Chris Peck, Editor
The Commercial Appeal
495 Union Ave.
Memphis, TN 38103 <>