One of the primary elements of ensuring a job is well done is often through the use of research. But a lot of people simply hate research. With the internet busting at the seams with sites that offer information that can be applied to projects, you would think that doing awesome work with the assistance of these resources would be easily achievable.
Yet it really isn’t.
But you can fall in love with research if you know where to look. That, however, requires — you guessed it — research.
With more information often comes less reliable information. Journalism has changed to the point where years of journalism school is being replaced with either a reputation, connections with a community or hands-on know-how. That’s not to say that you need to have a journalism degree to deliver solid and reliable content (we strive to do that every day here at WorkAwesome, and I can tell you that I don’t have said degree). But the landscape has changed as such that news organizations are no longer the only source for information. In fact, I’d argue that they may not even be the preferred source of information for much longer — or perhaps even at this juncture.
After listening to Dan Benjamin of 5by5.tv’s The Pipeline interviewing Joshua Topolsky, the editor-in-chief of Engadget, I caught myself thinking, “Where do I get my news and information when I’m doing research now?”, and the answer was not all that surprising. I generally avoid the news organization websites for the very reason that Topolsky mentions — they tend to either bury, delay or combine stories I’m interested in into digestible chunks that leave me wanting more. That, and they leave me wondering how much they actually care about what they’re informing me about. This makes me less likely to use them when doing research because I’m not getting all of the story.
Some would argue that news organizations are a better source of information that is reliable because it is “clean”, meaning that it is not swayed in one direction or the other — it’s objective. I beg to differ. These days, I am seeing a lot of editorializing and opinions being passed off as “news”, especially on the web and on television. I have a hard time filtering that out, especially when I do that I am left with a lot of stories about all the bad things going on in the world. These feelings drive me further away from these sources rather than to them.
Where’s the love?
Where I am going to get my research — and this is where I began to fall in love with research — is to websites that fill a particular niche. They tend to specialize — or at least have a genuine interest — in the areas they offer information and insights on. Engadget would be an example of this. Sites like these are driven by a passion for what they are discussing. I get the whole story, nothing is cut to make room for other stories because they don’t have to worry about printing materials — and they don’t have to worry about fitting in a story that has nothing to do with what they want to inform the reader about. The fact they don’t generalize makes them more appealing; the fact that they don’t generalize means they can be more appealing as well.
Old media has tried to stick around on the web using its old model…and it didn’t work. Then when they tried to enable the public to report the news it just got worse. That’s because even though the public was editorializing, it was passed of through packaging as “reporting”. Sure, we all want to be heard, but doesn’t it sound better to be heard when your a “reporter” instead of issuing an editorial? That, and editorials have been around forever (I’m doing one now, for example), so it’s not a new thing that the public offers them. What is new is that the news organizations — especially on television and the web — are using them more frequently than before. That’s because when you editorialize it, you call it as you see it. A reporter calls it as it is.
Television news has tried to reinvent itself to the point that it has not only exhausted all avenues of how to deliver the news in the medium, it has exhausted its viewers in the process. I also believe that television news has compromised its journalistic integrity in the process.
Certainly I’m coming at this from the point of view of someone who is the editor and a contributor to a site that focuses on productivity and work habits, but I’m thankful that the internet has provided a medium for sites such as this to exist. I highly doubt productivity would be a regular focus on mainstream media’s radar, so the existence of the web allows for such niche sites to exist and flourish. Niche sites can be nimble, make changes, change direction and add elements that are expected of the medium as well. There is a lot of forgiveness on the web as well, and the fact that it can act as a two-way medium makes it even more valuable. Articles become more than deliverables, they can become conversations. That’s why editorializing works on niche sites — there’s a greater sense of equality between reader and writer. Not so with “old” news sites.
It’s through those kinds of interactions and exchanges of information that makes niche sites a tremendous resource when gathering research. If you were at a library, would go to an encyclopedia to look up information on a topic or would you go to an entire book dedicated to it? Niche sites offer that added content and insight that general news sites and organizations just can’t, don’t and won’t provide.
The last word
Research can be challenging work and knowing where to look is a good first step. When you take it to that next level and find reputable niche sites that can provide you with what you’re looking for you’ll find a fuller, richer experience waiting. That’s when you become more productive, you fall in love with research and you create awesome work.
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