Discerning views about the digiterati

Posted April 11, 2010 by Wendy Parker
Categories: culture, technology

Tags: ,

One of the biggest developments in the five-plus years since I first began my digital media education in a serious manner is learning how to better evaluate the claims of those I like to call the “digiterati” — especially when they sound absolutist.

I’m generally bullish on the Web, particularly as it applies to the journalism profession. Being among the tens of thousands of those having joined the print diaspora, I know the transformation will take years and decades, and may not save many of us who are mid-career journalists.

On other topics related to the Web, such as the evolution of open societies, for example, I cannot offer a more informed opinion. But that hasn’t stopped some in the digiterati from claiming that democracy is on the march. This is not the case everywhere, as Evgeny Morozov explained recently in “The Digital Dictatorship,” revealing a rather big hole in the ideology of those he has labeled the “techno-utopians:”

“. . . while the American public is actively engaged in a rich and provocative debate about the Internet’s impact on our own society — asking how new technologies affect our privacy or how they change the way we read and think — we gloss over such subtleties when talking about the Internet’s role in authoritarian countries. . . . While we fret about the Internet’s contribution to degrading the civic engagement of American kids, all teenagers in China or Iran are presumed to be committed and engaged global citizens who use the Web to acquaint themselves with human rights violations committed by their governments.”

I recalled Morozov’s argument this week when I was catching up on news about the release of iPad. There’s unhappiness within the techno-utopian set about what some have heatedly labeled a not-so-shiny new toy. All of which made Nick Carr, my favorite critic of the digiterati, rather gleeful:

“Progress may, for a time, intersect with one’s own personal ideology, and during that period one will become a gung-ho technological progressivist. But that’s just coincidence. In the end, progress doesn’t care about ideology. Those who think of themselves as great fans of progress, of technology’s inexorable march forward, will change their tune as soon as progress destroys something they care deeply about.”

Some like to accuse “old media” of getting too comfortable with their own value systems that blind them to what’s happening to the public they serve. Carr calls out the digiterati for the same offense.

Some of the “geek gods” — his term — have gotten so carried away with their own technological worldviews that they don’t consider that many outside of their realm may not want what they do from a new device.

Not everybody wants to be a content creator. Not all are constantly flushed with the compulsion to be all multimedia, all the time, and always, always, to be connected.

Sometimes we just want to sit back and be the audience for a while.

I don’t know what to make of the iPad because I haven’t held one in my hands and played with it. But this might be the invention that gets my 74-year-old mother to ditch her badly outdated WebTV (yes, she still has WebTV!) to surf and check e-mail more easily and conveniently.

Not everything that comes on the market is designed for the “thought leaders,” those so offended by what the iPad represents that in one instance shipping the “Bizarro Trojan Horse” back to Apple was the only appropriate thing to do.

Their certitude and bluster is no different than that of tough-minded literary and restaurant critics. Maybe they’ll be right about the iPad.

But I do find it ironic that those who like to snort at middle-brow technology users have given up on something before it’s been widely sold, or has undergone upgrades and improvements.

Perhaps I’ve been following the digiterati long enough to be better able to discern when they’re dispensing something of value and when they’re just full of hot air.

But when far too many of them sound like overgrown, impulsive, perpetually disappointed teenage boys — not many females here — I tend to think what what they’re serving up is more of the latter.

Thoughts from the media bootstrapping frontier

Posted March 10, 2010 by Wendy Parker
Categories: career, journalism

Tags: , ,

The new sports site launch I’ve been working on has been delayed and has garnered most of my time in recent weeks, but I am hopeful it will be up and running in the very near future.

I’ve been very busy from the content creation and strategy angle, blending together with newspaper-style reporting, blogging, the employment of social media and multimedia components and SEO. I’ve also been working on e-mail marketing and busieness model ideas, and planning out the next phases of where we want to go after the launch.

Now it’s down to a Web developer and my business partner giving it the look and functionality we’ve been planning for months.

Taking such a long break from posting here is not what I anticipated, but I’ve been finding some good links to keep me focused on my primary task, and I thought I’d share them here while I’ve got a brief break in my schedule:

Liberate Your Life: Put Yourself on Auto-Response:

“Putting yourself on auto-response means silencing your practical mind, in the face of the seemingly unpractical and ridiculous ideas. Faced with liberating your life, instead of thinking ‘I don’t know where to start,’ your auto-response becomes ‘I’ll figure it out.’ ”

I haven’t worried about plunging into something — the deep end — for a couple of years. But it’s especially important to think this way when you’re outside of an institution that is the embodiment of reticence and caution.

Every day as I work on my project, I tell myself over and over, “Nobody’s doing anything quite like this.” There is no other template except to carry on.

random thoughts on being an entrepreneur:

“Once you become an entrepreneur, you find the company of non-entrepreneurs a lot harder to be around. You’ve seen things they haven’t; the wavelengths alter, it’s that simple.”

I’m not quite there — not yet. I still think of myself as a “bootstrapper,” but the entrepreneurial mindset is starting to take hold. Surrounding myself with self-directed people has been indispensable for me as I slog along, getting the concept for this site into the shape we have in mind.

(via Darren Rowse)

New media? I’ve worked 38 years in the newspaper business:

“I am not a new-media person dumping on old media. I am an old-media person who wants to look at the present and the future through clear eyes, not through a lens of nostalgia.”

This was written by veteran newspaper editor Steve Buttry right before he left newspapers to plunge into the world of online journalism. Upon his move, Buttry’s wife, a journalist in her own right, penned this exquisite tribute to him, including this painful summation of a stagnant industry that has created a large and growing diaspora:

“Did it ever occur to you that even the most deathless love could wear out?”

“The people who run newspapers and those who work for them are engaged in useless foreplay. They cling tightly, trying again and again to make the way they’ve always done it still work, but the passion is gone. They talk change: tearing down silos, building audience and monetizing content. But talk is their only capability. They eye non-profit status with government subsidies like it’s Viagra for print. They tussle through regrouping, ‘right-sizing,’ and stripping down to ‘lean and mean.’ They reorganize, then reorganize again, then grope their way back to same old position that no longer works. The wretched gyrations are hideously frustrating for the poor souls involved, and sadly fruitless. They give birth to nothing new. The newspaper business is an aging, impotent beast, bringing down a lot of good journalists who are tangled in its foundering arms.”

It’s been a year and a half since I left my newspaper, and those words and phrases are still chilling to hear. “Resizing” was the term that accompanied my buyout offer, and it left me numb.

This piece caught me off-guard emotionally, because I don’t dwell on these thoughts and experiences all that much any more. They serve as a reminder of why I wanted to forge a new identity for myself as a journalist. It’s being carved out, gradually but surely, with nothing but renewed passion as my guide.

The evolution of sports journalism online

Posted February 1, 2010 by Wendy Parker
Categories: journalism

Tags: ,

While I remain deeply involved in the development and forthcoming launch of a sports news site, I’ve found encouragement from others who are embarking on similar endeavors, and for similar reasons. C. Trent Rosecrans, whom I first met when he was a student journalist at the University of Georgia a decade ago, has started a sports news site in Cincinnati, and I love his approach:

“There are no jobs in media right now, nobody’s hiring. I could sit around and complain, or try to do something else. What I am trying to do is starting from the ground up. These are people who know this scene. I’ve lived here for six years now, and have only lived one place longer in my life. This is my home now, and I want to stay here and be part of this community.”

That’s just one example of someone I know who’s trying to continue his passion in face of layoffs and the daunting odds of bootstrapping.

At the same time, the National Sports Journalism Center has opened in Indianapolis, and its Website is flush with fresh, relevant material about the need for sports journalists to learn online skills and concepts while strengthening their grasp of the fundamentals of the profession.

For a tribe that can be rather grouchy and retrograde about the newspaper industry and the future of media, this is a very welcome development. It’s time to grow up, stop complaining about what’s happening in the business and get on with doing what we love.

So what might be the next major step for online sports journalism? I’m hoping there might be something along the lines of the News Entrepreneur Boot Camp that the Knight Digital Media Center is offering up again this spring. While this and other similar programs are great opportunities for journalists to develop business skills and business models, they seem to be limited to local news projects “in the public interest.”

I’ve thought of applying for this program because I’ve heard so many good things about it from those who attended a year ago, but I wonder if a sports topic wouldn’t be deemed serious enough for consideration. While I’m fine-tuning the content model for my site — which is my area of strength — I’m also boning up on e-mail marketing, approaching potential vendors and freelancers, laying out long-range plans and suggesting revenue models.

There are several other journalists who also have begun sites in my sliver of the niche sports universe. While it makes my project more challenging, it’s a terrific sign of the interest and need to help replace what’s disappearing from newspapers. But the business end of this is all new stuff for many of us.

The extension of good sports journalism online may not be vital to democracy, but it’s certainly something that attracts great interest from the public.

Between the corporate dominance of ESPN and the cynicism and snark of Deadspin is plenty of fertile ground for vibrant, independent voices to emerge.

Taking the Twitter Times plunge

Posted January 7, 2010 by Wendy Parker
Categories: journalism, media

Tags: ,

I’ve created my own personalized “Twitter Times” that encapsulates what some of my most active Twitter followers are reading and sharing.

As you can tell, my tastes run newsy, geeky and jocky, in no particular order. And with some local Atlanta news sprinkled all around.

When I hear fellow Twitterati say they use Twitter as their own personal news wire or news service, this is a good example of how it can be used not only to distribute interesting links.

It also makes it easier to catch up with what your followers have been interested in when you can’t get on the Tweet, as has been the case quite often for me lately.

Like Twitter lists — and here are mine — Twitter Times makes being on the Tweet a lot more manageable. And fun.

New York Times media reporter David Carr explains why Twitter will endure.

Follow me on Twitter here.

Hoping for a better media year in 2010

Posted December 31, 2009 by Wendy Parker
Categories: journalism

Tags: , ,

I’m usually old-school in observing New Year’s Eve traditions, so I dusted off this definitive rendition of “Auld Lang Syne” by Guy Lombardo and His Royal Canadians. And hey look, digikids, it’s on vinyl!

Best wishes to all for a prosperous 2010. After another difficult year in the media world, the coming weeks and months probably will feel no different for many. My 2009 was filled with expanding horizons and pursuing new opportunities. Many of them did not bear fruit, but I’ve got a better feel for the direction I need to go while understanding the importance of staying flexible.

I don’t set forth predictions or make fancy resolutions. This isn’t exactly going out on a limb, but I expect to continue to see a steady stream of print and mainstream media refugees trying new ways of doing the news, or carve out other work with their journalistic skills. There’s an amazing wealth of talented reporters, editors, photographers and multimedia professionals with so much to offer to their craft, their areas of expertise and their communities.

In this past year, many of them have been been battered by the recession, their former employers and some new media sages who don’t highly value their work. But I’ve been energized by their many stories of resolve as I plug away at creating my own future. And so it goes . . .

Happy New Year!

Merry Christmas 2009!

Posted December 23, 2009 by Wendy Parker
Categories: journalism, media

Tags: ,

Not much more to say except that I wish all of you a very Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year! I just received the nicest gift any humble blogger could expect when Ink-Drained Kvetch was included on a list of 91 journalism blogs and Web sites you will love.

What a pleasant surprise! There are some excellent resources there for all journalists and media professionals to use. I know I’ve gained so much from many of those individuals and organizations.

One of the many benefits of having a blog hosted on WordPress are the snowflakes that appear during the holiday season. Nice touch, WP! Thought I’d pass along some of my favorite holiday songs.

Will return next week with more on journalism, media and the digital age. Until then, enjoy!

10 good links about journalism’s past, present and future

Posted December 17, 2009 by Wendy Parker
Categories: journalism

Tags: , , ,

There’s no intentional attempt at symmetry here, but in my Delicious collection I’ve noticed an almost equal number of journalism-related links lately that either 1) weep for the state of newspapers and cross their fingers at how they might survive, or 2) say goodbye to all that and march defiantly into the future.

Perhaps it sums up some of the conflicting feelings I have for my craft, although I largely come down on the side of the latter. Thought I’d share these links here, and offer some comments as a full calendar year outside the confines of a newsroom comes to a close for me.

If I sound a bit too sardonic, my apologies. While I’ve shed most of my mournfulness about what’s happened to newspapers, I think helps to be mindful of what’s being lost. Building something better is impossible without that understanding.

Looking back, and hoping:

Twilight of the American newspaper (Harper’s) — I’ve been wanting to cut down on linking to obituaries like this one. But journalist and PBS NewsHour contributor Richard Rodriguez’ elegy for the San Francisco Chronicle he grew up reading is well-written and laced with the kind of emotion that only a devoted reader can summon. There’s some terrific history here of that city’s papers and what they meant for the generations who read them.

The print catharsis will continue in 2010, so it’s only proper to mourn, at least for a short while, whether you agree with Rodriguez or not:

“We will end up with one and a half cities in America — Washington, D.C., and American Idol. We will all live in Washington, D.C., where the conversation is a droning, never advancing, debate between ‘conservatives’ and ‘liberals.’ We will not read about newlyweds. We will not read about the death of salesmen. We will not read about prize Holsteins or new novels. We are a nation dismantling the structures of intellectual property and all critical apparatus. We are without professional book reviewers and art critics and essays about what it might mean that our local newspaper has died.”

(via Doug Fisher)

What Are You Willing to Give Up from Journalism? (Time, via Mich Sineath) — James Poniewozik asks newspaper readers — as if they haven’t sacrificed enough — what else they wouldn’t mind doing without as newsroom staffs get smaller.

• When Will a Web Editor Lead a Major Newsroom? (the soon-to-be-shuttered Editor & Publisher, ironically enough) — I believe this is a rhetorical question.

• Putting bite back in newspapers (Reflections of a Newsosaur) — More salient advice for traditional journalists that will go unheeded in neutered newsrooms.

• On leaving the newsroom (Tina Kelly Poetry) — A departing New York Times staffer reflects about being part of a journalistic tribe that has had “an honored front row seat in life.” Indeed.

Moving on, and looking forward:

• With or without publishers, local online continues to grow: (Journalism 2.0) — “If you’re a forward-thinker and an optimist, it’s exciting.” Some of us are, but far too many are not.

• Next year’s news about the news: What we’ll be fighting about in 2010 (Nieman Journalism Lab) – How about dispensing with the phrase “news ecosystem” for starters?

• 8 Must-Have Traits of Tomorrow’s Journalist (Mashable) — Business and entrepreneurial skills, above all, for fairly obvious reasons.

10 tips for would-be online journalism entrepreneurs (news: rewired) — “Don’t assume anything you do will be unique.” The key to all the others.

The future is nearer than you think (Xark) — “While I wish the future’s self-employed small-business journalists well, here’s a warning: Watch out for that next wave of disruptive development, because it’s likely to wash your job — and your mortgage — out to sea.”


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