Newsroom mystiques and blogger critiques

• John Temple, the last editor of the Rocky Mountain News, leads off Monday’s media links parade by expressing the range of emotions of those who’ve left newsrooms in his Confessions of an Organization Man. I know the feeling well, and all I can say is this wild swing becomes a permanent part of a displaced journalist’s mindset: 

“I call myself a ‘free agent.’ And to be sure, I like the sound of it. Free. Agent. The kind of person I had always wanted to be. Self-reliant. Self-directed. And I’m intrigued by what may come.

“Yet there is a sense of loss, and not only for my own situation. I wonder what will happen if we end up in a media universe of free agents. I see more clearly what the journalists who come behind me might miss. Many won’t be able to experience the benefits of being part of an organization with a mission much larger than their own, with a history and traditions.”

For anyone else trying to get a handle the exciting but formidable challenges ahead, I highly recommend Daniel Pink’s book “Free Agent Nation.” It’s designed for freelance and self-employed professionals in all fields, and I’ve found great advice and encouragement in what Pink has to say.

The power of the newsroom: Howard Weaver, until recently a longtime news exectuive with McClatchy Newspapers, is good at spotting the common ground that’s possible for remaking journalism. Between the curmudgeons and the utopians, he finds plenty of room, in fact:

“Many of the people predicting the imminent death of printed news or counseling companies to shutter newspapers and spend all their money on the web are drinking their own bathwater. They have a vision – many times a clear and compelling vision – of what the shift to a digital, networked world will look like, but they’re in danger of leaping to conclusions that aren’t there.”

The decline of the newsroom: In a Q and A with Reason’s Hit & Run blog, “Say Everything” author Scott Rosenberg contends that not only is the well-staffed, well-resourced newsroom a thing of the past, but its supposed heft has been something of a myth all along:

“I don’t fully buy the newsroom argument that ‘We have resources that bloggers don’t.’ That’s an accident of history and an accident of the media business model. The truth is, sadly—and I say this as someone who worked for years at a newspaper—that most people who know a subject really well, when they read an account of their field in a newspaper, are if not appalled at least disappointed. There’s always something wrong. With occasional exceptions of journalists who just happen to be really great.”

Who are the “real” reporters?” Over at Mashable, Scott Schroeder piles on with the reminder that the blogosphere is not a monolith:

“The newspaper industry acts as if all the blogs were the same. A blog can be a lot of things, but if we look at those that bring news, then it is a cheap, flexible, scalable, news publication platform. In other words, every blog is exactly the same as New York Times, only more scalable and more flexible. There are blogs with one writer who writes about his/her cat once a week. There are blogs with a full staff who write 20 posts per day. Some blogs only do opinions. Some do rumors, some do original reporting, some do reviews, and some mix two, three, or four together.”

When errors fall through many cracks: The New York Times still employs layers of editors to look over copy, but somehow several sets of eyes missed the many mistakes Alessandra Stanley made in her Walter Cronkite obituary. Clark Hoyt, the paper’s ombudsman, has detailed a process that reveals a set of priorities with as many flaws as the article in question:

“The Cronkite episode suggests that a newsroom geared toward deadlines needs to find a much better way to deal with articles written with no certain publication date. Reporters and editors think they have the luxury of time to handle them later — and suddenly, it is too late.”

NPR media reporter David Folkenflik made the transition from the print to electronic world, and now with his employer’s growing emphasis on the Web is truly a multi-platform operator. He’s also got a healthy, well-rounded perspective on what’s necessary for journalists to take forward:

“Despite the snark and dismissiveness of some of my online peers, some tremendous reporting occurred in the old models that are now cracking apart, and that reporting was read and seen by mass audiences. Yet I’m also very intrigued because of the ways advances in technology have reduced the barriers to entry into the field — every person can be his or her own network — and are altering the way people help shape the news they consume.”


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