Confessions of an Electronic News Junkie


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I just can't help myself: When a hot news story breaks, I'm on top of it immediately, with all the resources that subscription online news and the free Web can muster. Click, click, click—I might scan a dozen different takes on the same story from various sources. The Drudge Report points me to breaking dirt and a few blogs might add color. Often I'll dig up background information on a service like Factiva or Dialog NewsEdge. I can't wait for the next morning to digest what the dailies say: The Boston Globe, NYTimes.com, and WSJ.com provide perspective. Then on the weekend, I eagerly anticipate the weeklies and their more extensive coverage.

Yup, I'm a diehard news junkie. My particular interest? Anything at the convergence of politics, business, and the media. But because I've also spent a career in the econtent business, mostly in and around publishers and distributors of electronic news, my addiction is more severe.

I'm not just a civilian news junkie. I'm a professional.

Recently I've become obsessed with how the media covers itself. I'll surf and read for hours on end about scandals such as Jayson Blair and his bamboozlement of The New York Times. I'm thrilled by tapping all the econtent sources at my disposal to follow Martha Stewart and the effect her shenanigans have on the media empire bearing her name. I'll admit it might be a bit twisted to focus this much attention on electronic media; I'd argue it's no more odd than the custom of spending every Saturday afternoon hitting a little white ball around an elaborate lawn or analyzing the nuances of the Yankees' pitching rotation.

I know others like me exist because every so often some brave soul tries to create a media company that specializes in covering the media's coverage of itself. I loved Brill's Content and Inside.com, but both have gone bust. Today I enjoy the (free) daily news feeds from MediaBistro.com and Rafat Ali's PaidContent.org. Keep up the good work, guys.

So what, you might ask, is the natural progression of a love affair with electronic news? Well, what about traveling to the locations where news breaks and studying how the reporters and editors work? The rock fan wants a backstage pass and the golf freak might covet following Tiger Woods for a round. I need to be where the action is too!

Years ago I made it into the White House Press Briefing Room by tagging along with Knight-Ridder's White House correspondent for a day. During the briefing by Dee Dee Myers, Clinton's press secretary, I was fascinated by the room itself (dingy) the technology (dated) and the people (here were the media stars whose by-lines I read and faces I saw on TV). The formality of the Q&A was intriguing, particularly when the cameras and microphones turned off and the journalists received "background." I watched the wire service reporters hustle to their phones while the rest hung around chit-chatting. After the briefing, I even went upstairs and caught a glimpse of the Oval Office. I had made it backstage indeed.

I've been itching for more opportunities to be close to the action. Imbed with the troops in Iraq? You've got to be kidding! It's an honorable calling, but hey, I'm an electronic news junkie, not nuts. The equivalent for me? Going to the Democratic National Convention, which is happening at the Fleet Center, right here in my hometown of Boston. As an EContent magazine contributing editor, I applied for one of the 15,000 highly coveted press credentials. I dreamed of flashing my badge and being effortlessly waved through the tight security. There would be speeches (Clinton Live!), parties (look, it's Tim Russert!), and, of course, the chance to hang out in the media pavilion and snoop about to discover the latest technology and techniques in electronic news creation and dissemination.

But there's a problem: EContent is not an accredited political news outlet, so we've got to fight for press credentials. "But I'm covering how the electronic media covers the convention," I pleaded to the representative from The Executive Committee of Periodical Correspondents. He wasn't impressed. Turns out non-traditional requests are frowned upon. This year, for example, dozens of political bloggers have applied for credentials for both major-party conventions, and the powers-that-be don't know what to make of the requests. Are one-person, part-time blogs news organizations? Many would argue yes, and, without a doubt, the definition of media and its permutations continue to evolve with the Web. So should EContent be permitted—nay, encouraged—to report on the ways the electronic media reports on the convention? Absolutely!