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Laymance: Learn from past, future

June 28, 2010

Journalists are entering a new age of instantaneous news, user-generate content, and other social media. Before journalists can move forward, they must learn from the past and then learn from the future, according to Reid Laymance, sports editor of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch.

Laymance made the keynote address to begin the MPI workshop, “Covering Sports in a 24/7 World.” He told the audience of collegiate and professional journalists about how he has learned from the past to understand the future.

In his early career, Laymance said he encountered user generated content, a key feature to the new age of media, while typing up little league scores for a small newspaper.

“These scores were sent in by parents,” Laymance said. “And I thought: ‘That’s user-generated content.’ We were doing that back then.”

Even while working in the bay area of California, he received a complaint from a man anxious to hear a columnist’s opinion on the week’s San Francisco 49ers football game. Now, Laymance said, you don’t have to wait until the next day’s newspaper – it’s online.

With online newspapers, mobile phones, Twitter, and other social media involved with the Web, news is instantaneous. With all these tools available to journalists, decisions must be made, Laymance said.

“We have to keep our standards,” Laymance said. “Remember that we are representing the paper.”

Journalists’ standards and expertise are what set them apart from the common high school student posting a 140-character Twitter post after a football game. The background and history that journalists have gives reason for people to go to the real reporters for the high school football game recap, Laymance said.

With the establishment of Twitter, newspapers can easily post breaking news the second that they hear it, for all of its followers. However, with the new technology comes a choice: do you scoop yourself?

In an experiment Laymance did with his staff, he found that the difference between posting breaking news on Twitter the second you confirm it, compared to holding it for the next day’s press is slim.

Yet, newspapers have to make a decision on how they want to deal with Twitter and breaking news. There is not right or wrong, according to Laymance.

“If a coach quits and only tells you, what do you do,” Laymance said. “I don’t think anyone really knows. What do you want your philosophy to be?”

As journalists grow more and more into the new generation of media, choices must be made for how a staff will deal with Twitter and other social medias in the future. As many more newspapers begin to make those decisions, Laymance said everybody takes notice.

Laymance has learned from the past and is learning from the future. In learning from the future, he learns from others. That, he said, is why we are here.

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