More tales of journalists and reinvention

Some of the latest links from the world of journalists-in-transition, and the state of the profession as it relates to where they are in their careers. I’m trying to keep this forward-thinking, if not always as hopeful as I’d like to feel about where we go from here:

“What would I do if I weren’t a reporter?:” Tracy Gordon Fox went from covering crime for the Hartford Courant to studying to become a nurse, and now is an emergency room volunteer at a Hartford hospital. “I’ve come to realize that the work habits I had developed as reporter — taking copious notes, staying focused, finishing what I started — had translated into good study habits. And my experience in dealing with people as an observer has been very helpful in my current role.”

Like daughter, like father: Former Cleveland Plain Dealer columnist Sam Fulwood III writes about being on the job-hunting path with his daughter as she graduates from college. “So far, the reinvention thing hasn’t worked out for me. It’s not so easy for sober and serious reporters to Twitter and Facebook our way into the affections of folks Amanda’s age, let alone the editors and publishers now clamoring to win their attention.”

Tweeting and branding: Dan Baum’s recent flurry of Twitter posts about being fired from The New Yorker is the kind of stuff that makes old-school journalists like Fulwood cringe. How Baum is employing this tactic to recreate his career is something that “branding” experts are driving home constantly. “He’s significantly elevated his personal brand, and his exercise highlights the increasing need for journalists to take charge and market themselves.”

Baum’s using Twitter to promote his new book, and that’s fine. But perhaps my reluctance to follow his example is because I’m struggling to figure out how to use these tools to get my work distributed without being crass and clumsy. I’m not saying that Baum is, although detailing why someone lost a job and Tweeting on about a former employer isn’t entirely professional. Then again, Baum’s getting an awful lot of buzz in the journosphere as a result.

I will not blog for thee for free: When the Queen of the Future of Journalism (aka Arianna Huffington) approached blogger and writer Dan Lyons (aka the Fake Steve Jobs) about writing for her hot ‘n saucy Huffington Post, she naturally dipped into her Leona Helmsley persona: “As you know, we famously don’t pay our bloggers.” To which he replied, “As you know, I famously don’t work for nothing.”

From expendable to experimenters: A student journalism blog at the University of Maryland, remarking on recent comments by Sen. John Kerry about new professional paths for laid-off journalists, poses a very obvious question: “Does this mean that the very journalists who were pushed off by failing print media will be the ones who redefine what journalism is and how it’s delivered in the aftermath?”

The very obvious answer, my young successors, is yes, it does mean precisely that. Because as you’ll see in the examples below, the institutions that once nurtured this journalism have largely squandered that responsibility.

A newsroom of their own: Some former Rocky Mountain News journalists are forging ahead with their own online news site after investors bailed out of a subscription -based model that didn’t come close to its aims. The idea here is enticing, but funding it is another issue that seems to hold little tangible promise right now.

Keep those clicks coming back: One of the leaders of online news ventures, Joel Kramer of, writes about learning how to read traffic numbers to keep readers returning for more. “Frankly, we’re not sure exactly why our reader loyalty has grown so rapidly. Nor are we sure yet how to keep that momentum, or how to capitalize on it to help us achieve our business goal: breaking even by 2012 on revenues from donations by individuals, advertising and sponsorship.”

Kramer is a cold-eyed realist who’s plunging into the actual work of post-newspaper journalism that new media sages wax rhapsodically about. But he understands the odds are long and the challenges are steep for his enterprise to make it. He’s worth reading and following more than any of the gurus because he’s putting theories about online news into practice.

The rebirth of the news business: The Economist is optimistic about the transformation from print to digital but has no new ideas on how online journalism can be properly funded to meet this demand. “In the absence of profitable alternatives, it may be that expensive, worthy journalism on subjects like the war in Iraq will increasingly be supported by charity.” The Editors Web Log offers a critique of this critique.

“It’s the public, stupid:” That’s one of Geneva Overholser’s observations to attendees at the Knight Digital Media Center’s News Entrepreneur Boot Camp. But here’s my favorite, one that I wish that journalism’s feuding doomsayers and utopians would heed but probably won’t: “Resist the urge to pronounce. This is not a duel. It should be a debate about the next steps for journalism in the public interest.”

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