Assorted journalism links for May 27
Lots of good links from around the journosphere that I’ve found especially helpful, intriguing or worth paying attention to for other reasons:
• A writer’s search for journalism in the age of branding — Maureen Tkacik is a young journalist, but her battered, whirlwind experiences make her sound like my jaded generation of printies. She does wish we would dispense with some outdated notions about holding ourselves outside of a story.
“For me, an enduring frustration of traditional journalism is that what training you do get centers on the imperative to discount and dismiss your own experiences in pursuit of some objective ideal, even as journalism simultaneously exposes you to an unusually large variety of experiences. The idea that it might be a good thing to attempt to apply insights gleaned from those experiences to future stories—let alone synthesize it all into any sort of coherent narrative—rarely comes up, unless you’re a columnist. This can be an especially torturous dilemma during the inevitable low point at which the journalist—this one, anyway—comes to believe that the only feasible course of action (given the state of journalism) is to secure a six-figure book deal, and commences filling her off-hours in a feeble attempt to ‘write what you know.’ I know a lot of things, taunts the endless negative feedback loop, but none of them is how to make six figures.”
More than a few readers, by the way, suspect Tkacik isn’t as serious about her ideas for journalism as she is building her own brand. Perhaps it’s a little of both.
(h/t Kyle Whelliston)
• Death of a newspaper career — Oregon print journalist Adam Sparks stopped taking the newspaper after returning from vacation, and eventually he stopped going into his old office at the Register-Guard in Eugene — by choice:
“It’s scary to lose your job and have your livelihood taken away, and, I’m not gonna lie, it’s a bit terrifying to be stepping away voluntarily without a landing place lined up. I’ve had my career goals in place since high school, and it’s unsettling that, after all this time, I have no specific aspirations. I’ve got a lot of ideas, and have already encountered a few possibilities, but this is still a giant leap into the unknown, without a parachute or a safety net.
“There’s a reason it’s called a ‘comfort zone,’ and a reason most people don’t seek to leave it.”
Sparks has started his own news site, and is seeking freelance work. Welcome to the diaspora.
• 3 Underrated but essential skills for journalists — Mark Luckie of the fine 10,000 Words blog says they’re math, design and interpersonal skills, the often-caricatured unHoly Trinity of the ink-stained wretches. I could definitely improve in all three, but the “people-person” reference didn’t help articulate his final point. Any good grizzled editor would strike that as a lame and vague reference and ask, not entirely sarcastically: “What does that mean?”
I think the point is to better serve readers. You do that by having conversation and exchanging ideas, typically now via blogs and social media. As for “the ability to communicate with a total stranger,” this is not a new skill. It is about building relationships, as that cliché goes, and it is the essence of good reporting and source-building, no matter the platform. Traditional journalists who successfully have done that in print and “old media” — with sources, officials and readers — are doing it in the digital realm.
• An investor’s tips for budding news entrepreneurs — On the heels of the Knight Digital Media Center’s News Entrepreneur Boot Camp comes some smart advice from early-stage investor Robert Arholt. I especially like his remarks on the advantages of bootstrappers who want to stay independent:
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“They continue to hold their destiny in their own hands. Having investors means bringing in not only capital, but additional perspectives and goals.”