Froomkin’s “From Scratch” Online Newspaper

For the Nieman Journalism Lab, Dan Froomkin imagines what a “from scratch” online newspaper started “today” might look like. It would not, Froomkin writes, be made up of “toneless, small-bore news stories.” One possibility, Froomkin continues

might be to imitate cable TV…

…Froomkin’s looking at you, Politico…

…and engage in a furious volume of he-said/she-said reporting, voyeurism, contrarianism, gossip, triviality and gotcha journalism. But that would come at the cost of our souls.

The “right way to reinvent ourselves online,” says Froomkin?

[D]o precisely what journalists were put on this green earth to do: Seek the truth, hold the powerful accountable, expose the B.S., explain how things really work, introduce people to each other, and tell compelling stories. And we should do all those things passionately and courageously — not hiding who we are, but rather engaging in a very public expression of our journalistic values.

Obviously, we do some of that already. But I would argue that even then, we do so in a much too understated way. We stifle some of our best stories with a wet blanket of pseudo-neutrality. We edit out tone. We banish anything smacking of activism. We don’t telegraph our own enthusiasm for what it is we’re doing. We vaguely assume the readers will understand how valuable a service we’re providing for them — but evidently, many of them don’t.

While I agree with a lot of this, I’m having a hard time envisioning how, say, a New York Times reporter might underscore for reader the “valuable service” he is providing. You do know this is a scoop, don’t you? I got this for you first. And it took weeks of working the phones… Maybe on Twitter?

Froomkin will have more tomorrow.

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Liz Cox Barrett is a writer at CJR.