Let’s delete the word ‘repurposing’ from our vocabulary

My friend Alf Hermida worked for BBC News online for many years, so please listen up:

It is time to stop talking about repurposing and instead to start a discussion on how to re-imagine journalism.

Alf’s been noticing that too many so-called online journalism textbooks spend too many pages discussing a practice that is just plain bad for journalism.

“Shovelware” is bad enough — that’s when you take the unaltered content from another medium (print, TV) and simply shovel it up to the Web site. Looks bad, tastes bad. But at least it doesn’t (or shouldn’t) require any extra labor from the journalists in the newsroom.

“Repurposed” content has been tweaked — or retrofitted, we might say — so that it works better online than straight-up shovelware. Trouble is, it usually doesn’t make a big difference, and the process eats up precious time — time the short-staffed newsroom just does not have to spare. Time that would, quite frankly, be much better spent doing something new for online.

What some newsrooms (e.g., The Atlanta Journal-Constitution) have done is turn the workflow around — in a way that makes sense when the number of subscribers to the print product is decreasing and the number of online visitors is increasing: Make “Web first” the rule, in all cases. Produce for online, write for online, shoot for online, design for online.

And then “repurpose” for the dying media — the print newspaper and the local TV newscast.

Your priorities ought to reflect reality, don’t you think?

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