Lessons from Amish Country

A New York Times article from this week, "Exploring News by the Amish Online," takes a look at Amish communities to show that perhaps our Twitter-esque approach to crowdsourcing and local news is not such a "2.0" thing.  The reporter interviewed 22-year-old Jessica Best, a journalist who spent time in Ohio at the The Budget, the largest newspaper serving the Amish.  Jessica explained that The Budget sources news from "scribes" from across the nation, and that the majority of scribes do not want the news to go online, mainly because of privacy concerns.  Her study revealed interesting observations about the similarities between our Web 2.0 world and the offline model that has served the Amish for so long.  For example:

"By assembling detailed reports from around the country, Ms. Best said, the editors of The Budget 'have been doing for 100 years what we have only been doing recently — looking at news on the hyperlocal scale and asking each person what is on your mind...They are looking at the individuals to make a bigger picture. With the Internet, the power has shifted to many hands, but they have done that for a long time.'"

Jessica's experience proves that crowdsourcing is not unique to the blogsphere and new media, but more just innate to how humans prefer to share news and tell stories.  As storytellers, we fall back first and foremost on "word of mouth" updates and local information that comes straight from the source.  It's just the information delivery method that changes over the years.  So -- should The Budget go online? It's online at the local level now, but not nationally.  Further, will the online shift do away with the traditional print format? I think the Amish Scribes passion for pen and paper tells us that there is a time and a place for print, just as there is also a time and a place for online news.  Why does the proliferation of one medium have to lead to the extinction (or endangerment) of another? I don't think it does.

Contributed by: Susan Wise.  Follow her @swise