Monday, January 30, 2012

MLive Goes Live, Getting Ready for Close Up

It's been interesting to watch the news executives at MLive Media Group doing public relations and blogger outreach in the gear-up to the bow of its new digital/print product and home in a 'hub' in downtown Grand Rapids later this week.

After blogging recently about MLive facing a new competitive environment with the increase of local news bureaus at the Rapidian, including some branded journalism efforts of local nonprofits, I was invited to take a tour of MLive's new downtown space with Grand Rapids Press Community News Director Julie Hoogland.

Ari Adler got a similar treatment from MLive Media Group President Danny Gaydou, as Adler recounts in his own blog.

Hoogland had taken issue with my indication that the Press was losing staff capacity. Of course my sense of that was largely informed by the numerous farewells of long-time Press staffers on Twitter, Facebook, and in person. Hoogland maintains that many were offered jobs but chose to take a buyout and move on to new ventures. What remains is a large number of veteran journalists, as well as some savvy young ones who have graduated from area college journalism programs. So she says quality journalism will remain. She also points out that capacity will not suffer as formerly independent Booth papers work more  collaboratively on statewide news, including coverage of Lansing, major league sports, entertainment and other subjects. Meanwhile, each of the local papers  will continue to stress local coverage.

In the new hub across from Rosa Parks Circle, Hoogland showed excitement at the possibilities. The ground floor will have a studio with a window on the sidewalk, similar to New York City morning network TV programs, for video interviews of newsmakers. Job titles include the word "producer," indicative of the new multi-media nature of news gathering and reporting by MLive and its various digital entities.

The public will also be welcome to walk-in and visit on the main floor. The second floor news room looks strikingly like a college computer classroom, with modern Steelcase chairs at long tables where journalists will work adjacent to each other when they're not out in the community.

"Previous changes were triage; this is embracing the future," Hoogland said.

She did change my view about the potential for both the quality and quantity of news coverage in the new model. I am excited  and hopeful that the "newspaper" we have known and loved will adapt and thrive, both locally and nationally.

But I still maintain that the MLive launch later this week puts it into a new media landscape. The Press will co-exist and/or compete with with citizen journalism, other print media, television, and news content directly  from companies, nonprofits and government entities--all of which will have a digital presence as well. Just as young people have lost the distinction between cable and network, in the online/mobile/social mix of 24/7 information, news consumers may lose at least some of the distinction between print and broadcast, as well as between third party news reports and direct sources of information.

I eagerly await their close-up.


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