Not bad number: A value on online news

$315,000,000

The price of AOL’s acquisition of Huffington Post is a not so bad number. Media critics have derided the move as a foretelling of value put on straight content and not journalism, but it’s at least a value put on information after a time when many were writing the obituary for newspapers and other news gatherers.

News flash to some: There is value in news. And to a certain extent, this business transaction shows it.

News aggregators such as HuffPo have raised ire from me for mashing up stories from news services with a line of their own reporting. Casual readers think it’s Huffington Post doing the bulk of the reporting, but that’s not the case. Prominent stories on HuffPo tonight are from AP and Reuters. But that is changing to a certain extent.

The New York Times had a Sunday front-page story a few weeks ago about how HuffPo, Taking Points Memo and Politico each have small armies assembled and ready to tackle the 2012 presidential election. They are new news sources on big stages.

There are also fewer and fewer stories about newsrooms being gutted. In actuality, it appears that many newspapers have weathered the recession and have retained staff.

That isn’t the perception, however. One source for a story I’m working on asked who the editor is I’m working with because “there has been a lot of turnover there in the last few years.” I happen to know this newspaper well, so I listed off nearly all of the senior editors, all but one have been there for more than three years.

That’s good news for journalists and readers. That doesn’t mean that newspapers are a growth industry, but as the AOL/HuffPo deal shows, there are new news groups in new mediums.

One example of the new horizons was Basetrack, a website of journalists imbedded with a U.S. military battalion in Afghanistan. The Knight Foundation-funded outfit provided updated information on the battalion through social media for the families and friends of the soldiers as well as news consumers. They provided information on the battalions whereabouts and missions.

Basetrack’s work was featured on NPR’s show The World last week. Family members talked about how the site kept them in touch with their loved ones.

But on Feb. 7,¬† the military, which originally asked Basetrack to report, shut them down for “security reasons,” according to the Nieman Journalism Blog and other sources.

Basetrack might not have been the end-all in new media, and neither is the AOL-Huff Po deal, but it shows that journalism isn’t dead. It’s evolving.

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