Opinion

What’s ahead for online news?

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I was primarily working in politics throughout the 1990s. In the early ‘90s, with the introduction of email, a growing internet, internet accessibility, and affordable computers, I saw potential for the legislators I worked with to have communications networks with their constituents. Actually, I envisioned legislators’ email communication networks branching in all directions: legislator to constituent; constituent to legislator, and all the networking variations therein.

Up to then it wasn’t as easy or immediate for legislators and constituents to communicate. Options included lLocal public meetings, district-wide newsletters and/or questionnaires (most of which reached only as far as the trash can), newspaper advertising, and perhaps a brief appearance on local radio/tv, or a guest editorial and/or letter in a weekly or daily newspaper.

Pre-internet I recall writing something for one legislator, some public communique. The legislator was heading home. I told him I would fax the writing to him at home. He could make corrections and fax me back the writing.

“I don’t have a fax machine,” he said.

For a few moments I was speechless. This was when fax machines were cutting edge communication technology. Businesses, news outlets, certainly elected officials, used fax machines if they were interested in reaching customers/constituents asap.

“Can I ask why you don’t have a fax machine?” I asked in my most respectful tone, trying to hide my disbelief.

“If I have a fax machine,” the legislator said, people will be able to get me at home and I’ll have to answer them. So I don’t have a fax machine,” he said.

By around 1993 I was using the internet to put out political news. Some of my news was original; most of it, in the early years, was recycled news from Maine online newspapers. I looked for stories within the newspaper stories, emphasizing them whenever I found them. Plus, the web forum I owned-and-operated encouraged registered users to post their news, and have conversations about the news.

Today, a quarter century after I started posting news online, online news is everywhere. Combined with talk radio, live-streaming over digital devices (smart phones, tablets), web-based television — political news is a constant — and I follow almost none of it.

I never had cable tv or a satellite dish, so I never relied on cable news networks. Most of my news came from online. Sometimes, usually when driving, my news and news opinion came from talk radio.

Entering the second quarter of online news broadcasting, across all media, it’s time center-right and conservative news outlets get away from their reliance on reacting to the Left. Across the political spectrum it seems so many news and opinion commentators are modern day Tokyo Roses, Axis Sallys, and Baghdad Bobs, spewing out propaganda, not news, for their side.

For my blood, center-right and conservative “news” focuses too often on recycling gaffes, mannerisms, typical behaviors from Leftist politicians, activists, and celebrities.

But are their audiences learning anything worthwhile?

News reporters and broadcasters have more opportunities than ever to enlighten audiences, which does happen from time to time.

I don’t really care to hear, yet again, how some brash tv show co-host said something ditzy about the President. Ditzy delights the audience, and holds no surprises for center-right/conservative audiences following state, national, and world news.

My word for such recycled stories is: boring.

Shows need to be entertaining. I get it. But the days of recycling boring “news” are done and waning.

I don’t have a complete answer to what should happen next in news reporting, but I’m working on it.

Scott K. Fish has served as a communications staffer for Maine Senate and House Republican caucuses, and was communications director for Senate President Kevin Raye. He founded and edited AsMaineGoes.com and served as director of communications/public relations for Maine’s Department of Corrections until 2015. He is now using his communications skills to serve clients in the private sector.

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