Some old-school ideas for renewing journalism

Dusting off some links I’ve been collecting of interests to journalists in transition, those in recovery or those trying to get a better handle on the Web’s effects on — and possibilities for — the profession:

• Multimedia journalism ace Mark Luckie writes that adapting to doing the news on the Web means much more than mastering technical skills. It’s a rather old fashioned formula:

“Success in journalism requires a strong grounding in the fundamentals: knowing how to write (well), how to interview, how to speak to others and how to quickly establish trust and relationships. Without these skills, there is no reason to even learn the technologies that are transforming the industry.”

• If you’ve started or are thinking about starting a “hyperlocal” Web site, the married couple that runs the West Seattle Blog offers a good example of what can be done in the genre, if you will. They support themselves and their teenagers on advertising revenue, but make it clear this is a fully consuming way of life:

“It’s the same challenge that I’m sure our parents faced in running their small businesses. We’re at that point where you know you are going to have to broaden the fold, to bring in someone, whether its on the business side or a Saturday editor, and that person is going to have some thoughts and some ideas. You know it’s not going to be just your little thing anymore.”

• Via Paul Gillin, the creator of an early Internet news site goes several steps further in suggesting that the best solution to fading journalism models is for individual journalists to take control of their own careers:

“Journalists need to own their own news publications, not simply toil for the people who own them. I’m no socialist, so don’t get me wrong, but there’s really no point in supporting other people with our work when we can support ourselves with it. We don’t care how long it takes; we always knew they would be slow to get off the corporate teat and start walking on their own. When that happens, and great news organizations owned and operated solely by journalists who are their own bosses exist all around the world — that’s when a newspaper war will erupt, and the world will find journalism anew. It won’t be so boring then.”

• Business innovation expert and former Microsoft manager Scott Berkun takes aim at the gospel of social media, especially the “change the world” hosannas that frequently erupt from uncritical worshipers:

“The problem with the world is rarely the lack of technologies, the problem is us. . . . Democracy, steam power, electricity, telegraphs, telephones, televisions, the Internet, and the web have all been heralded as the arrival of Utopia, and although there has been progress in each wave, it seems there are things we want that technological change can not bring to us.”

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2 thoughts on “Some old-school ideas for renewing journalism

  1. Regarding the OurBlook link … since they don’t seem to have comments (or, I couldn’t find the link) enabled … I’ve been trying to say this for a long time, though not nearly as eloquently. These people who are slaving away for Examiner-dot-com or the zillion other “hey, we’ll pay you, really, at least, um, you’ll earn coffee money” websites – or worse, “volunteer” to write “blogs” on newspaper websites – WHY oh WHY are you doing that? You don’t need tech expertise to set up your own site. God knows, we’re proof. We’re still running on the same out-of-box WordPress theme I chose 3 1/2 years ago when I thought this was going to be “just a blog.” We’ve gotten some help, pro bono and paid, to make some tweaks, and we can’t keep this theme forever, BUT if you’re just starting – go to wordpress.com or Blogger or wherever and GET GOING! Make your OWN name. Own your OWN pageviews. Rock your OWN world … if you do good work, Google will index you on your own site just the same way it would do so if you were buried in somebody’s bigger site. Don’t let somebody else earn money off your work. Aggregators aren’t the problem in that regard – writing for free or cheap for some big company IS.

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  2. You’ve nailed a topic I’m getting ready to write about, and your encouragement has been very inspiring. I’m about 3-1/2 years behind you in getting a locally-focused sports site off the ground, so the growing pains are rather fresh right now.

    But it is a great feeling to take hold of something you can call your own and make it what you want. I’m finding that the challenge might be harder than anything I’ve done in journalism, but I think it will be worth it.

    It beats writing for peanuts for others, with no control over it, or not knowing when that work might dry up.

    Thanks for sharing your experience and best wishes with your site.

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