by Molly Pappas, Media Relations Specialist, Business Wire/Boston
Paul Roberts, editor and founder of the recently launched security news Web site, The Security Ledger, is part of an emerging trend in journalism: reporters shying away from traditional media to branch out on their own. He left his job as an editor at Threatpost.com, Kaspersky Lab’s security news Web site, to launch and work on his own blog last August.
Roberts doesn’t consider himself a pioneer in the field, however.
“I’m not a trailblazer. I looked at Brian Krebs’s site, KrebsOnSecurity.com, and knew I couldn’t do exactly what he did. But I thought, ‘I am a good reporter and can make this work.’”
He doesn’t believe every journalist can branch out on their own like this, though there are few obstacles to keep them from doing so. To be successful, you need a delicate combination of things – real expertise in a specific subject area where there is an audience for it and for-profit organizations interested in talking about and promoting the content.
“Just kidding,” he laughed. “But seriously, [my] goals are really around growing the audience and the exposure of Security Ledger.” With one million page views and 200,000 unique visitors in the first full quarter of operation alone, it seems like Roberts is well on his way.
“I think page views are great, but at the end of the day Security Ledger will rise or fall based on how well we do engaging with and building a community around a very tech-savvy and knowledgeable readership,” he said.
Compared with the capital-intensive publishing industry from 20 years ago, online publishing is a frictionless market and the tools of publishing and distribution have been democratized, through the Internet, blogging and social media, Roberts explained. With the constant evolution of technology, expensive publishing equipment and paper and ink distribution are no longer necessary tools for having your voice heard. And because blogging is a nearly-free publishing tool, he clarified, you don’t need “the talent card” to blog. “It’s both amazing and terrifying,” Roberts said. He, however, is not worried. This is why credibility in your chosen field is key.
“I think what people want is good, reliable information that is well-reported. In other words, ‘Do your job as a reporter!’” he said. Reporters are responsible for reaching out to people, getting firsthand information, and then helping to organize and understand it for their readers. “Get the news out there and make it accurate,” Roberts said. Nowadays, because there seems to be a race among the media to be the first to break a story, readers are beginning to see a drop in accuracy of the news – the initial Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting reports and the early false announcement of Joe Paterno’s death last year both come to mind. “Many of the gate-keeper or filter functions of the media have atrophied,” Roberts stated.
Readers, Roberts said, are also starting to see an increase in stories, filtered off from news distribution lists and social media, ending up on the front page of major newspapers, like The New York Times. “Most likely, they didn’t break that story. They’re just shooting into the same channels that others are. As a security reporter, who’s written and covered this topic for a while, you see stories eventually bubbling up to the mainstream media, months or more after bloggers have written about it,” he added.
So what does Roberts do to make sure he is bringing accurate, credible and newsworthy information to his readers? “I get up early and go online – social media, various Web sites I follow – to see what’s happened while I was sleeping,” he said. “Depending on what’s going on, it can dictate if I drop everything to write this big story. I follow security researchers, public policy people, the private sector, academia, and so on. I have contacts that will let me know the stuff they’re working on, if it’s not public, but will be soon.” Roberts also cites a big reliance on traditional source development. “I just always have my spidey-sense on.”