City Desk

The Indefatigable Steve Rosenbaum

I bit off more than I could chew when I zinged Steve Rosenbaum–here's a guy who'll keep coming back at you, Lance Armstrong–like, in the comments section. Doesn't matter if people compare his résumé to that of a pornographer, turn down his offers to hire them, or suggest he's related to Donald Rumsfeld. The CEO will pick himself up, dust himself off, and sigh: "Wow, ok it’s a ‘credit’ throwdown." He'll then list the TV shows he's worked on, the documentaries he's produced, and the various formats of videotape he's familiar with.

Clearly this is a man whose opinions on "jouranalism" aren't to be taken lightly.

But who's the man behind that résumé?

For one thing, he blogs on Huffington Post. Highlights from this career include punditry ("I think there is every reason to believe John McCain won't be the nominee. Ok, let me say that again. McCain will not be the Republican candidate in November"), cutting-edge constitutional law advocacy ("President Obama... I have to ask, why isn't Bernie Madoff behind bars?"), and serving as a sort of Margaret Mead for "Digital Natives" (he defines them as people who've "created an economic safety net that is driven in part by creating awareness of their work through personal branding and a relentless ability to keep their name and their work front and center among their 'Tweeps' (that's the Twitter version of 'Peeps')").

Rosenbaum is a digital pioneer. How else to explain the fact that his Wikipedia page, for 18 beautiful months, described him just the way you'd imagine he'd like to be described ("As the Founding Partner of Magnify Media, Steven Rosenbaum has developed a worldwide reputation as a storyteller with a passion for characters and an eye for unusual action. His award winning television, internet and film projects cover the range from reality based documentary and hard news coverage to narrative fiction."). Then some luddite went in and got all "neutral POV" on his entry.

Steve, man, all kidding aside, I thank you for answering the question I posed in the comments section. You wrote:

1). No one is making money on Curation alone.


2). There’s nothing that even remotely resembles a business model around content yet.

OK, fine. But I'm still wondering why you think "curation" is a way forward for journalism when we're already doing a fine job losing money the old-fashioned way. If curation, or link journalism, or whatever term is in vogue at the moment has any chance of making money, I say go after it like grim death. But all I see now is a phrase that gives publishers cover when they embark on the umpteenth round of cost-cutting occasioned by their acquisitions. See you in the comments.

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  • Steve Rosenbaum

    Wow, you're making me have to think!

    Ok - fair enough. Here's what I've been thinking about how aggregation/curation can "save" journalism.

    First of all - there are really two kinds of newspapers. The big national newspapers - you can debate what papers are on this list; NY Times, WSJ, USA Today for sure, and you can debate papers like Washington Post, LA Times, and Chicago Tribune.

    But local newspapers are really the ones in terrible trouble. And with good reason.

    Back when I had just graduated from college, my local paper was the Saratogian in Saratoga Springs NY. It was - and is - a Gannett paper. And back then Ganett was thinking about turning the paper into a section (local) of a national paper called USA Today. It was all the talk of the newsroom that the local paper was going to be subsumed under a national masthead. It didn't happen - but probably should have.

    Meanwhile, I was a local reporter at WENU (We and U - Together!) a adult contemporary radio station that played The Captain and Tennille's "Muskrat Love" until your ears bled. Don't laugh, I was fresh out of college, and it was a paying gig. (link:

    What I did - at the direct orders of my boss who owned both the local radio station and a car dealership - was pick up the first printing of the Glens Falls Post Star, and call folks like the Mayor and City Counsel representatives - and asked them for quotes (recorded by phone) to put on our local AM drivetime reports.

    Good news, I quit that job. Seemed like plagiarism to me - but it's pretty much standard practice and TV and Radio haven't killed newspapers.

    What IS killing local newspapers is that the very idea of what LOCAL is has changed. It used to be your community, your neighbors, your local politics. Now, not so much.

    Local is no longer is tied to physical places. My 'local' community is on Facebook. It's on the web. It's groups of friends and startup guys and industry folks who talk, share, swap stories and connect in a 'virtual community' called cyberspace (so old school, I know).

    But my point is that newspapers are busy flogging proximity as their organizing principal, when most folks aren't putting down roots in quite the same way that they did 50 years ago, or even 10 years ago.

    So, here's what needs to change for any local newspapers to survive, and fast:

    1. Figure out what you must do to be local and important to your readers.

    2. Jettison, outsource, crowd source, citizen-enable, or curate EVERYTHING else.

    3. Get video. Make some. Get readers to submit some. Curate some. But fast.

    Here's what I would do if I was running the Saratogian today.

    1. Put all our $$$ into local government coverage, local Arts coverage (SPAC, The Track, Theater, Dance, Music, Art).

    2. Deputize local folks to report local sports, local school lunch menus, local senior citizen center events.

    3. Gather (and then Curate) local breaking news. Car crashes, house fires, things that are happening in real time with local cell-phone cameras. (yes, controversial, but it's going to happen anyway- so why not gather - and confirm - and publish these feeds).

    4. Advertising: Compete with Craigslist. Local folks don't care where they post. Do a fast free service, with a slight charge for photos, or mapping or some value added service. Use local video ads, or new services like PlaceLocal that make local ads fast and smart.

    5. Embrace local unique resources. Skidmore College has a great English Department (disclosure: I went there). Give them a page (a webpage) to publish the Skidmore Scope.

    6. Finally - give your readers tools to filter, focus the backfill content of the paper. Dirty secret of the news business, the space in the paper where the content goes is called the 'news hole.' They layout the ads first, and that determines the size of the news hole. Now, there's plenty of room. So partner with folks like to delivery zip code specific info to your readers.

    Focus on what you're good at. Reporting. Editing. Filtering. Curating. Get technology centric fast - or Twitter will run you over.

    If you're interested in the coming together of old media and new ideas - we've got something in common.

    (follow me on Twitter at

  • Skipper

    Hit snooze button on that post.

  • sara.h

    As a reader and consumer of news, I am so troubled by Rosenbaum's theory of what people are looking for that I don't even know where to begin. I don't look to my local newspaper to deliver the written equivalent of a sound byte. More often than not, I go to the newspaper - national or local - to find out more information about something that I heard a snippet of on TV. I want my news to be well reported, and I want it to be well written. I don't want it in 140 characters or less. And I don't want it written by someone who is getting paid by the hit. When you pay someone by the hit/view, their goal is quantity not quality. It's "how many salacious stories can I write about Sarah Palin?"

    This whole concept brings us all down to the lowest common denominator.

  • Steve Rosenbaum

    sara.h That isn't what I said at all. I said that MORE resources should go in to reporting, not less. But that things like school lunch menus and girl scout troop reports can be turned into citizen journalism or crowd source, or aggregated blogs - so that LOCAL news has the resources to double down on reporting.

    There's not a word about 140 characters replacing news - that maybe be your fear, but I don't see that happening at all.

  • Amanda Hess

    Wait ... the entire newspaper industry is tanking because we're not publishing enough nursing home events or school lunch schedules? I was telling my colleague the other day, "Man, that quick-and-dirty video I produced about Tuesday's mac-and-cheese side option really went viral when I tiny-url'd it on Twitter. How's that triple homicide cover coming along, sucker?"

    And the uptick in ad revenue mysteriously appears from where, exactly?

  • Jule Banville

    Steve, please see WaPo's LoudonExtra in re: Hyperlocal Flop

  • Steve Rosenbaum

    Amanda, I was writing about a local paper "The Saratogian" - not many triple homicides there. Local is about NEWS and SERVICE. And in terms of uptick in ad revenue - If I were working in local print today, I'd be looking at ways to connect and slow the decline of advertising. Advertising is going digital, so without a digital offering, it's just a matter of time before print is gone.

    Jule, sure ok. A Flop. So your point is a). Give up on local having an on line Hit? Is there something in this Flop that illuminates what could work?

    Back to Saratoga: Check this out (just saw it today) any chance that local businesses are aren't going to post listings, events, specials, etc here? Seems like this site has a piece figured out.

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