Christopher Mims

A View from Christopher Mims

Slashdot Founder's Love Letter to "Real" Journalism

An early pioneer of aggregation joins the Washington Post.

  • March 6, 2012

In an age in which the house that unpaid labor built has become one of the leading sources of news in the English-speaking world, it’s heartwarming to see a comment like this, especially from a dean of the world of aggregation.

Rob “CmdrTaco” Malda

What became increasingly clear to me is that The Washington Post is doing something that matters to me personally: Real journalism.  The Pulitzer prize level kind.  They are working hard to educate and inform the public.  To shine the lights into the dark places.  While different in a great many ways from the work I’ve done in the past, the parallels are strong.  The mission is the same.  And the importance is real.

That’s Rob Malda, “CmdrTaco” to his legions of fans on Slashdot, the site he co-founded in 1997. Malda resigned from Slashdot in August 2011, then spent the next few months decompressing from 14 years and 15,000 posts on the site.

Malda has just announced that he’ll be joining the Washington Post’s WaPo Labs division as chief strategist and editor-at-large. WaPo labs is responsible for that Social Reader app that has convinced us all that we can’t click on a link on the Post’s site without broadcasting it to all of our Facebook friends. They also built Trove, a sort of social news reader.

As newspapers continue their death march toward consolidation on a national level, the survivors are increasingly becoming technology companies in their own right. The New York Times has its own Labs division. (Bet you didn’t know they built the excellent Summify competitor News.me.)

It’s worth contemplating the extent to which the future belongs to media companies that refuse to rely on the tools at hand, and are constantly building their own. Does the Washington Post’s willingness to invest in one of the OGs of this field augur a rash of defections from other technology-focused enterprises to “real” journalism?

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