The New Journalism

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Everyone likes a feel good story.

It’s part of the reason why the latest online viral video sensation is the story of Ted Williams – a homeless Columbus, Ohio man who was a former radio broadcaster. This is an amazing story (and you can watch the video that started it all below), but it’s also another shot against the bow of traditional journalism as we’ve known it to date.

"Just post it on the Web or something."

A story about a homeless person rarely makes waves. It’s not the type of story you see kicking off the evening news on CBS or on the front page of your daily newspaper. It rarely makes it on the  local news radio and there are not that many magazine features about people like Williams. Doral Chenoweth III is a videographer for The Columbus Dispatch. He had seen a sign that Williams was holding up by a freeway panhandling about how he has a great voice for broadcasting. The video of their encounter (which was originally posted to is now clocking in at 8 million views on YouTube. Now, Williams is on the CBS News (and Jimmy Fallon and Jimmy Kimmel), he’s had multiple offers from companies like NFL Films, countless radio and TV stations and other offers of help and work.

It took us… not them.

What brought this story into our hearts wasn’t the work of great editors or producers… it was the work of the new journalists. People like Chenoweth III, who are beginning to see that a truly great story doesn’t need a gatekeeper… it just needs a home. Social Media is this home. It is an instant publishing channel that treats all pieces of content equally. How far that piece travels and who it reaches it not based on a fixed distribution system or promise of reach. It’s based on who passes the story around (and well beyond YouTube and into other channels like Twitter, Facebook, Blogs, etc…).

A nose for news. 

The new journalism (and the new Marketing) is about having a nose for news. It’s about being able to tell a story that will connect with people. If no one is following you on Twitter or posting to your Facebook page or watching your videos on YouTube, here’s the cold, hard truth: it’s not resonating. Watch the story of Ted Williams. Think about this videographer and the story they uncovered. There are more stories like Ted Williams – where the mass public will see it and feel it… and act on it. The new journalism (and the new Marketing) won’t be a as heavily reliable on the traditional media channels, because now we have other ways to get stories to spread and reach critical mass. We’ve been waiting for the Web to truly deliver on this promise… and now it can.

This is the new journalism. This is the new marketing.


  1. So true, Mitch. As someone who has come out of radio, I really appreciate the concept of storytelling, and videos like this one, and platforms like YouTube, are perfect for this. It reminds me of some of the great stories being told via radio and the Internet with programs like Radio Diaries, David Isay’s Sound Portraits and Storycorps, and websites like
    New media, new marketing, and new journalism could learn a lot from this.

  2. How true. Being in traditional radio media, it makes me wonder how much longer we can go before having to change everything we know.

  3. I think old and traditional media, marketing and news organizations can pick up a lot from this too. It’s kind of mind-boggling that it first appeared on The Dispatch website, but it took YouTube to reach the masses.

  4. You mention that this video originally appeared on the Columbus Dispatch’s website. Because The Dispatch is a traditional daily newspaper, doesn’t it indicate there was some level of editorial oversight? It’s unknown how much this helped accelerate this videos path to viral distribution.

  5. Thanks for blogging this Mitch – saw this yesterday on Reddit but had a feeling it was going to be big. Literally went from 300K views to 8 million in less than a day.

  6. Great story and fantastic outcome — mythological.
    Not all stories will be the same and business models may not be able to benefit from the same fuel that propelled this one.
    Once enough of the ‘new’ stories or journalism becomes available then people will have a hard time navigating or wayfinding to what is important and will ‘vote’ by clustering their attention to the ‘leader’.
    Sometimes this becomes the ‘wisdom of crowds’ though it may also be seen as ‘follow the leader’.
    We live in interesting times.
    Nick @SpeedSynch

  7. I’ll admit, when I first heard his voice on this video, I thought it was a clever dub over.
    The web certainly has made it easy to get ‘discovered’. Except it’s not getting 15 minutes of fame anymore, its 8 million views of fame, followed by temporary stardom. And hopefully for this fellow…a great job.
    Great write up Joel.

  8. This is one of the reasons by the way why I think a basic journalism class should be part of every college curriculum, regardless of major. Increasingly, we’re all publishers, and you never know when the opportunity will present itself. Great post!

  9. Content will also find it’s niche, so while something may not get 8 million views and make it into every media outlet in the world, some great content will be able to roll through it’s own niche media channels. Nothing wrong with that, either.

  10. I wish I knew the intricacies of the story, but because they’re not telling the story, it leads me to believe that they didn’t feel it was much of a story, so they just threw it up on their Website. I’m also fairly certain that it was the posting of it on YouTube and the YouTube community discovering it that took it from there to here.

  11. I agree with you on that count, Mitch. Local news sites are filled with material that they put up merely as a way to fill space and give the appearance of staying current. They are more about content then “good” content. But this story had what it takes to resonate with a large segment of the population. It hits YouTube. Gets shared on Facebook and Twitter. Get’s blogged about. Bottom-up, grassroots gatekeeping at its best.

  12. I’m less interested in the 15 minutes of fame and more interested in the people who come together, make something happen and move on to make something else happen. In the end, the Ted Williams story won’t be about a YouTube video… it will be about a person who needed help and how the Internet (and people like you and I) can now be direct catalysts for providing help. I, personally, love stories like this.

  13. Along that train of thought, it would be nice if the Journalism and Marketing schools worked together to create more courses on how to have that nose for news and how to use the channels available to all of us to tell and share and distribute those stories.

  14. I would love to the know the real behind-the-scenes story of how this story came to be and why it was posted only to the Web, etc… If someone has a link to share on this one (one where the publisher of The Dispatch is honest about how the story came to be published), I would love to read it.

  15. Thanks for blogging this inspiring story. You are right, truly great stories just need a home. Traditional media budgets are shrinking just like the space to dedicate to those stories. Youtube, facebook and twitter are great distribution channels to spread the news around. This is my experience too and, indeed, this is the new journalism.
    What is not clear yet is: according to this trend, who is going to pay us, the storytellers? A new business model hasn’t born yet… In a way, this is very exciting ๐Ÿ™‚

  16. I think this has been “born” – you need to find places that have the resources to pay but don’t have the ability to tell the stories. Look at how CPG companies create portals for new moms, etc… as an indicator of this.

  17. When a lot of caring people put their networks to work, this is what happens. I believe part of the reason this resonated is because many of us knew someone who could probably help Ted out… so we did. It wasn’t long and drawn out. A quick fix to help someone out in need.

  18. Content will find its way, absolutely.
    TransMedia or Cross Media or the ability to weave stories to span multiple places and spaces is an art that may help content and people find each other.

  19. Storytellers must go beyond crafting story value to get paid in my opinion.
    Among other things stories must
    align people, content, products or processes to help people learn or wayfind. Stories must also have the ability to travel or find their way to people–transmedia or cross media is one manifestation of this imperative.
    Connecting stories, at least from a commercial perspective, to corporate objectives and measures is an obvious link to ROI and justifies someone signing a PO.
    Separating a story from the mechanism to deliver it may help connect the dots to payment.

  20. Love this post AND this story, Mitch. You’re right – so many lessons can be learned here. The landscape of media has changed drastically, but it all boils down to this – telling good stories. Whether it’s citizen journalism or traditional media, story matters. It always has, and always will.
    I’ve got a post going up tomorrow on the marketing lessons we can learn from our friend Ted Williams.

  21. …and putting these stories in places that can make them more findable (this is key). If it’s buried on your own website, it’s not going to work. Make your content/stories as findable and shareable as possible.

  22. It’s so great how these new tools are giving voices (pun intended) to people that have been overlooked! Major shift in business and society happening today.

  23. I did notice that too… if you click below on the related videos you will find one… not sure why they are taking some of them down, etc…
    Alternately, you can do a search on his name in YouTube.

  24. That person has an amazing voice. I always seems to compare his voice to Michael Buffer the ring announcer. But I’m so amazed how fast this video has spread.

  25. How come painters of past centuries used to paint saints all the time? Because they were sponsored by the church. Storytellers + CPG companies = what?
    Unfortunately, a new business model has NOT born yet. But there are very interesting attempts…

  26. This is an amazing story. The Internet has brought us so far! Hearing stories like this make me smile, it shows we all have a voice to be heard.

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