Tumblr as a City, With Residents, Events, and ... a Newspaper?

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All the news that's fit to tumble.

Tumblr_Gazette copy.jpg

About 40 percent of Americans go online to get their news. The Internet is where they find out about the latest machinations of our political leaders, read reviews of a movie they've been curious about, or check the weather. In short, we go online to read about what is going on offline.

But a lot happens online these days. It may be all bits and volts, but it's not other-worldly. And that's why a new effort by the good people at Tumblr is so exciting. Their plan, as reported in The New York Times, is to create a news site for the things that happen in the Tumblrverse. They've hired Chris Mohney of BlackBook Media and Jessica Bennett of the Daily Beast as editor in chief and correspondent, respectively.

Mohney describes his editorial vision for the site by comparing Tumblr to a city of 42 million (the number of Tumblrs -- bigger than the population of Tokyo), and he's got to cover what happens in that city -- its ideas, trends, and, even, events.

Tumblr is not the first website to dabble in this kind of media. In 2003, Linden Lab, the maker of Second Life, hired Wagner James Au as an embedded journalist to cover the "emerging society" there -- "its controversies, its personalities, its innovations and ambitions." Au worked for Linden Lab (as a contract employee, in order to retain "editorial independence") for two years. He still maintains "New World Notes" which covers Second Life news and culture, including things like reviews of new Second Life fashions.

Of course, its not as though no one is covering what happens online. Internet life is not a separate reality from offline life, and it gets covered by traditional news outlets when it plays into a traditional news story, such as the logs of chats between Bradley Manning and Adrian Lamo, the tweets of Representative Anthony Weiner, or the online interactions and trails of Tyler Clementi and his roommate Dharun Ravi, reported by Ian Parker in this week's New Yorker.

But Tumblr -- and Mohney -- are right: Online life is richer and more interesting than can possibly be covered in the course of traditional news, and that's what we'll have a chance to see with their curation of the City of Tumblr's first local paper.



Image: Wikimedia Commons/Rebecca Rosen.

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Rebecca J. Rosen is a senior editor at The Atlantic, where she oversees the Business Channel. She was previously an associate editor at The Wilson Quarterly.

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