Tag Archives: digital disorder

Readings: News entrepreneurs, the security of freelancing and taming digital distractions

What follows are some links rattling around in my brain, and between the sofa cushions, as I battle to meet a major project deadline and get a better handle on this scattershot life on the Web I’ve been leading. It’s been a romp this week, and by no means is Friday the end of my work week. But hey, I’m not complaining. The joy of deep immersion in the work I love has me getting the same adrenaline rush of breaking news hitting my old newsroom.

If you’ve got some time this weekend, these pieces are well worth your perusal. The first link is the second installment in Michael Massing’s gargantuan examination of the vastly changing news industry for The New York Review of Books (here’s Part I). The following delves into online news ventures and startups trying to replace the journalism that’s disappearing from newspapers:

A New Horizon for the News: “What we do have is a tremendous increase in enthusiasm and initiative that, in the age of the Internet, counts for more than transmitters and printing presses. The retreat of the giant corporations and conglomerates is creating the opportunity for fresh structures to emerge. It remains to be seen whether foundations, wealthy donors, and news consumers will step forward to support them. . . .The opening won’t last forever. Lurking in the wings is a potential new class of media giants. Google, Yahoo, MSNBC, and AOL, all have vast resources that could finance a new oligopolistic push on the Web.”

How journalists can become successful news entrepreneurs: “Great reporters are resourceful. They don’t take no for an answer. If one official won’t answer a question, they’ll go find a document or dig a little more until the official feels compelled to answer. What ever it takes to get the story. No wall is too high or too thick once a good reporter sets his or her mind to reporting a particular story. That drive is the first pre-requisite to being an entrepreneur.”

Can Anybody Pull Off Long Form on the Web? “Salon also thinks that its content—mostly long-form, originally reported stories about politics, entertainment, technology and other topics—is just too costly given the level of interest from advertisers. It believes that advertisers will be more excited by shorter, more real-time pieces.”

Steering Clear of Writers Mills: “For those who feel the need to write something, anything, start a blog. Create a newsletter. Put together a fanzine. Just do something that belongs to you, so that should something come of it, you’re the one benefiting. Let the big time investors do their own work for a change.”

10 Reasons Why Freelancing is the Best Job Security: “Freelancers get exposed to a diverse assortment of ideas, business models, workflow processes, and technologies. This helps you to stay fresh and on the cutting-edge of the best practices in your field.”

50 things that are being killed by the internet: “When was the last time you spent an hour mulling the world out a window, or rereading a favourite book? The internet’s draw on our attention is relentless and increasingly difficult to resist.” (the ones that hit home for me are nos. 9, 12, 14, 21, 27, 29 and 50)

The Hierarchy of Digital Distractions: “Emailing, writing, tweeting, designing, browsing, taking calls, Skyping, Facebooking, RSS Feeding – all blurred into a single technological trance. I seem to switch randomly from one to the other. But actually is there a subtle hierarchy in this cloud? Do I prefer some distractions over others? I think so.” (via Bert DuMars)

Perfection’s nice, but messiness is more fun

Lots of terrific tips, links and ideas on the first day of the national SPJ Conference in Atlanta. Advanced Webheads are already on to most of this stuff, but workaday journos are finally getting this drilled into their heads on a constant basis now. I hope.

In addition to Sree Sreenivasan’s exhaustive collection, two Web-savvy reporters and editors have their own impressive list of basic sites that every up-to-date journalist ought be familiar with (my opinion, not necessarily theirs). Again, it seems like old hat for many of us, but this is a convenient one-stop source for those in the profession only now hearing about some of these tools. Or who have been oblivious to them.

Since I’m relatively new to audio and podcasting, I’m eager to tool around with Vocalo very soon. It sounds like the perfect resource to get started.

In the second of two sessions on Thursday, Sree encouraged old-style reporters not to be afraid of using emerging Web 2.0 tools that may run counter to their journalistic DNA:

“Let’s see what we can marry of the new, new stuff with the good old stuff. The new stuff is good enough, but it can be perfected later. We don’t need to abandon wanting perfection, but we need to use good-enough tools to speed things along.”

In other words, post it now, update, correct and pretty up your prose (photos, blogs, other interactives, etc.) later. Once again, not something Webbies think twice about. But for the majority of journalists to adopt a “new media skill set, and a new media mindset,” as Sree put it, this will be a slow, often tortuous grind.

One especially encouraging thing was to hear how often Twitter is rolling off the lips of mainstream journalists. And being used by them. This morning Dave Cohn links to Erica Smith’s compilation of newspapers using Twitter. It keeps growing, and so do the numbers.

Mostly, I enjoy these conferences for meeting people I wouldn’t have come across otherwise. The initial point of contact has been, fittingly enough, on Twitter. It’s pretty easy to take it from there.