Monthly Archives: December 2008

It’s gonna be fine in 2009: Best wishes for a Happy New Year!

On this New Year’s Eve/Day I’m resolving to forge ahead more passionately than I have in many years. After a 2008 filled with bad news about the news industry, and after taking a buyout at my former newspaper, there’s no other course. And frankly, despite many legitimate concerns about journalism, especially in the short-term, I do think it’s going to be exciting and challenging for those of us recreating our careers in this environment.

So I feel like celebrating with a Spanish Cava to uncork when the Peach drops here in Atlanta. I’ll step back in time here only to offer a rendition of “Auld Lang Syne” by a bandmaster who made it famous.

Happy New Year!

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Why I’m ‘the future of journalism’

When the fine folks over at Publish2 announced their “I Am the Future of Journalism” contest earlier this month, I was reminded of some terrific advice my career coach gave me not long ago as I was shaping my résumé: “We’re going to get that humility training out of you.”

So I’ve tried to keep that in mind as I prepared my entry for the contest, which requires entrants to explain themselves a lot more than I’ve ever been comfortable doing. This isn’t something I’ve taken to naturally, much less saying all this on a video! But here’s my first stab at truly becoming the multimedia journalist that all of us will need to be.

Yes, the ultimate prize is a job, but the process also helped me sharpen my thoughts about why I’m continuing along this path called journalism. And why it there’s no other choice but to plunge ahead fearlessly.

This is my little effort to explain why, so please have a look (it’s only 1 minute, 20 seconds long), then go over to my entry page on Publish2 to read more. And rate it if you please.

Vodpod videos no longer available.
more about “I am the future of journalism“, posted with vodpod

Weekend video jam: Eartha Kitt, RIP

We here at IDK Global Headquarters still don’t know what to call this end-of-the-week feature of some of the best works in jazz and the blues (our preferred musical form, for the most part). Perhaps some catchy hedder will find its way into the permalink in the new year. The last artist to hold sway here in ’08, one of the prima donas (literally) of the genre, passed away on Christmas, which she memorialized with this tune.

Eartha Kitt was 81, and “Santa Baby” was, well, her baby:

And the following is a wonderful pictorial retrospective of Kitt’s career, which surely must have spawned a few drag queens with the handle “Eartha Kitsch.” Or at least I’m imagining:

And finally, what a showwoman she was! Bette Davis, eat your heart out!

Kvetch of the Week: Protectionism for print

I’ve got no crystal ball to guide me here, but a likely recurring scenario in the online journalism world in the coming year will be that print-oriented Cassandras will take an even greater beating from the digerati than they have in years past.

There is the distinct possibility that 2009 will mean the end for a number of newspapers, including major metropolitan dailies that have been getting hammered in recent years. Denver, Detroit and Seattle are the most prominent cities to watch.

But there’s a growing impatience with those who blame the rise of the Internet and “free” journalism posted on news sites as a primary reason why newspapers are having such trouble. It remains a conundrum for newspaper companies, but also ignores decades of readership decline and the fact that media organizations across the board simply haven’t prepared for the digital age.

Former New York Times foreign corespondent and editor Joel Brinkley, now a visiting journalism professor at Stanford, recently suggested that newspaper companies get a federal antitrust exemption to start charging for content on their sites if they wish.

Yet would something like that be enough to stem the tide of readership to the Web? For the first time, more people are getting their news via the Internet than by reading the newspapers. Surely this trend will only increase.

It didn’t take long for Brinkley’s protectionist ideas to get a thorough flogging. Former newspaper journalist Steve Yelvington, now a new media strategist, tore into Brinkley’s thesis better than all the rest in this Christmastime Kvetch of the Week winner. Enjoy the wholesome good kvetchiness of this riposte:

“The truth about newspapers is that news is not, and never was, the real reason for home-delivered subscriptions. The real reason was entertainment. Even the act of reading the news was primarily an entertainment-seeking behavior. Gee, let’s just go around and cut everybody’s cable lines. And wrap the houses with tinfoil to keep out the radio signals. That’d save newspapers for sure.”

Holiday video double: Nat King Cole, Mannheim Steamroller

I had a very scroogey day before you-know-what that I won’t fulminate about here, but I’ve been saving these two videos and am very excited to unwrap them and share them here. Merry Christmas to all, and I’ll be back to my old kvetchy self on Friday.

First up, is Nat King Cole’s classic rendition of “The Christmas Song:”

And here’s Mannheim Steamroller’s “Stille Nacht:”

On the future of democracy and journalism

There’s much hand-wringing going on these days (and for a few years now) about how democracy is supposedly endangered as newspapers continue their decline. Now one of the more bombastic members of my sportswriting tribe (and it is a rather bombastic tribe) has weighed in:

“You can’t have a democracy without us. If newspapers are dying, so is our system of government.

With all due respect to Jason Whitlock, and do I respect his work a great deal, newspapers alone are not the key to democracy. They are one component of a journalism profession that is undergoing a massive transformation and redefinition that ideally will re-energize it.

With the explosion of the Web, many of us steeped longer in the print tradition are struggling to grasp the idea that it is the journalism, and not the platform, that is paramount. Whitlock is one of many sports columnists who works across many platforms rather comfortably yet he seems to fall into the same trap of regarding newspapers as the gold standard of what the profession represents.

(And there are plenty of blog posts like this arguing that blogging saved democracy because the established legacy media grew flabby, timid and complacent in recent decades.)

Yet the platform many of us will be using for our journalism from now on has the power to better inform us, more effectively hold our politicians to account and enable us to demolish cant and official statements more than print ever did. I don’t think there’s been a better time to get to the heart of the journalism that matters to us, and to the citizens we serve.

We’ve never had more freedom to dig into to those topics and issues that stoke our passions, and that called us to journalism in the first place. For those of us now out from under the umbrella of corporate media, this rediscovery ought to be endlessly appealing.

The struggle to speak and publish freely shouldn’t be taken for granted. As late as 1959, the year before I was born, the United States government was still charging journalists with sedition, and blackballing those cleared of such accusations until just two decades ago.

In many parts of the world, individuals fighting censorship, repression, poverty and the effects of war struggle mightily to get out the word. And risk jail and death to do so. American journalists who dismiss blogging, social media and other Web trends, or who aren’t comortable with them, need to understand that it really isn’t about them any longer.

There’s a tremendous opening here for “old media” journalists, with their experience, news judgment, expertise and dedication to craft, to jump fully into the fray on the Web and help bolster the democracy they say their work is all about. The time for looking back and mourning needs to be over.

How does this journalist keep his job?

I don’t advocate any more journalists losing their jobs, certainly not after taking a buyout myself earlier this year. But the following piece of bathroom tissue masquerading as journalism is more troubling than the way the author instigated the whole mess.

How does this columnist stay employed? Seriously.

With more than 15,000 newspaper industry job cuts this year alone, including his own paper, which is scaling back home delivery to three days a week, he continues to draw a paycheck as conspicuously as he makes himself the story.

Is it unfair to question his motives? I think not.

Update: The backlash continues to mount.