Tag Archives: newspapers

Happy happy gobble gobble

Just wishing everyone observing the American Thanksgiving a very good, peaceful, restful and enjoyable holiday.

I’m still burrowed in the work of launching a sports site I’ve mentioned here before, and hope to finish that in the coming days.

My posting here has been more sporadic than I intended as I work on that project, but I want to return to more active blogging as soon as possible. There’s been a lot going on in the journalism and media realms, as usual, and there’s so much I want to explore when I get the time.

So my thanks to you for your patience.

In the meantime, help yourself to some links on journalism, media and work, plus some miscellany, that have caught my eye on the fly . . .

Walt Disney vs. the news industry: How bad management is killing newspapers and their websites (Online Journalism Review)

Journalism, Technology Starting to Add Up (MediaShift Idea Lab)

How Demand Media’s Business Model Can be Applied to Niche Sites (Poynter)

Reinvention: Now the job requirement for Boomer women (Vibrant Woman)

It’s Not the Recession, You Just Suck (Outspoken Media via Mike Wells)

Local Bookstores, Social Hubs, and Mutualization (Clay Shirky)

Coffeehouses: Bringing the buzz back (Wall Street Journal via Evgeny Morozov)




Fresh and familiar takes on journalistic change

Because of my ongoing Web site-building project, I haven’t been able to post here as often or substantively as I would like. But below are some recent links to journalism and media topics that have been on my mind as I work toward a launch date that’s just around the corner.

(Some shorter, quicker notes I’ve been posting on my latest experiment in thinking out loud.)

There’s not an awful lot that’s new here for those well-versed in the online journalism field, but the constant drumbeat of change is perhaps driving the need to restate the obvious, or extend continuing debates:

An Epitaph for American Journalism:

“We need an aggressive, dynamic, highly technical kind of entrepreneurial journalism. One which will both teach and honor people who build new websites, create new companies, know how to finance them, grow them and sell them.

“Journalism has for far too long derided the business side of the business as ‘dirty’.  That is wrong. Plain wrong. Journalism is first and foremost a business. And without the income, there is no journalism at all.

“We have to abandon our notions of the noble ink-stained wretches forever in search of ‘the truth’ and embrace and learn to love making money.  (Turns your stomach to hear that, doesn’t it, you old ink-stained wretches?)  Too bad.”

Forces beyond anyone’s control:

“When the history of the decline and fall of newspapers is written — and wouldn’t it be grand if some genius came up with something to save us all! — there will be lots of blame assigned to complacent journalism executives. But I hope people understand that there were huge technology-driven social forces at work that couldn’t have been turned back by anyone.”

(via Andrew Sullivan)

Auletta on Internet disruption:

“When I hear people in traditional media today whine about, ‘Oh, woe is me, they’re doing these terrible things,’ I have no sympathy for that at all.”

Wild guesses won’t solve journalism crisis:

“With all due respect to my dedicated and talented colleagues, we need to try something different. Next time, we need to hear from people we don’t know, exploring things we don’t know about and examining potentially useful solutions we have yet to consider.”

Narrative is dead! Long live Narrative!:

“We needed a way of communicating that encouraged the evaluation of facts instead of the balancing of rhetoric. It’s a shift that requires a radically different theory of the press. . . Narrative isn’t under assault. The economic hegemony of mass media is, and with it go the fortunes of journalists who made a living via an advertising subsidy that went away.”

Guest Kit: ‘Life After Newspapers:’

“Something came over me, and I felt the urge to shout. So I did, tentatively at first, and then louder until I was screaming at the top of my lungs, ‘FREEDOM!’ over and over like Mel Gibson in Braveheart. Then I remembered: in the very next frames of film, Gibson has his guts slowly spooled out of his body by the executioner. But, damn, this sense of liberation feels good. While it lasts.”

The key ingredient for the new news emporium

Mathew Ingram, an online news evangelist at the Globe and Mail in Toronto, admits that the printed word still has something over the Web that may not be changing anytime soon:

“I realize that there is far more content — from a vast diversity of sources — available on the web than there is in a newspaper. But who will filter and condense and aggregate it for me the way a newspaper does? I still haven’t found something that does the job quite as well. Perhaps someday I will, but until then I will keep reading newspapers.”

This notion is especially relevant for me now as I am creating a specialty sports news site that will be populated in part by aggregating and curating news stories. I’m largely on top of the stories in this particular niche, but there’s no way to collect everything of importance to our intended audience.

The person who’s overseeing our project asked me if there was a good existing RSS feed for this particular topic. It would certainly save time that I could spend on the stories I’ll be writing for this site. But I told him there isn’t, not for the readers we’re trying to attract. I advised it would be best to hand-dip the news, as at an old-fashioned ice cream parlor, to provide the best value. This will require additional work, but I think it’s well worth it.

Especially after I noticed this morning a six-year-old story in one of my news feeds. Automating the news via keywords is a wonderful thing. It can permit a few extra winks of sleep for an online editor or curator. If one is aggregating on a high-profile subject, it makes perfect sense and adheres to the best slogan about the news that Jeff Jarvis has ever come up with: “Do what you do best, and link to the rest.”

But like fishing, this practice occasionally pulls an old rubber boot out of the water. I know I’m not saying anything new here, but I’m learning more and more each day about the necessity of employing my best news judgment — and an appropriate human touch — to presenting the news for others.

And it ought to be a relatively easy concept for print-oriented journalists to embrace since it’s an old newspaper technique gone to the Web:

“This sort of picking, choosing and assembling from a wide range of sources—curation and aggregation—is precisely what modern editors should be doing online, not just regurgitating the limited content they get from their parent organization. It leverages the strength of the editor’s skills: the ability to divine the best content, deep knowledge of a subject, and the ability to shape it into a compelling package for readers. That’s what good editors have always done: curate.”

As the neutering of the newsroom continues . . .

It’s been so easy to whip up on the Washington Post for its new social media policy imposed in the wake of a top editor revealing political opinions on a protected Twitter account (since closed).

Certainly it could be a teaching moment for a once-great newsroom that, like so many others, has been reduced to a shadow of its former self. But these new dictates likely will have the opposite effect:

“All Washington Post journalists relinquish some of the personal privileges of private citizens. Post journalists must recognize that any content associated with them in an online social network is, for practical purposes, the equivalent of what appears beneath their bylines in the newspaper or on our website.”

Indeed, the frenzy of ritual asceticism that inhabits so-called mainstream media outlets reveals a professional tribe so afraid to dare to be human that even those educating their successors scratch their heads:

“Why am I, a professor of journalism, encouraged to blog, tweet, and engage in public dialog about journalism, but still trusted to speak the ‘truth,’ while journalists are not? Why am I not required to ‘relinquish some of the personal privileges of private citizens’ in order to do my job well? Why am I allowed to get up in front of a classroom everyday and teach youngsters how to ‘do journalism,’ while journalists themselves have to give up some of the personal privileges of private citizens? What is it about journalistic professionalism that demands the monk-like embrace of personal rectitude?”

Perhaps I haven’t been gone long enough from the culture of the newsroom to believe that it’s fine to say whatever the hell we like once we leave the confessional booth of transparency. Revealing everything — including how journalists vote on a secret ballot — is just as absurd as being “antisocial mannequins.” This strikes the right tone as far as I’m concerned:

“I think a smart reporter or writer won’t say things that would damage his or her credibility, either on Twitter or anywhere else.”

All I know for certain is this: The zeal that editors still employ to tell their staffers “no” is hardly a good thing at a time when they need to be finding more encouraging, creative ways to say “yes” more often.

Instead of dealing with the “offending” editor individually (some think he did nothing wrong), the Post has imposed guidelines that, while reasonable in some places, effectively add a new level of fear and intimidation for a depleted staff to absorb. This is so fourth grade: Somebody makes a mistake, and everyone else is punished.

While their newsrooms continue to hemorrhage talent and passion, editors treat their underlings like children. This has gone far beyond the frequent (and annoying) reminders I got in my former newsroom about the evils of slapping a political bumper sticker on my car.

Editors are so worried of perceptions of bias that they are oblivious to the effects of constantly saying “no” — to their reporters, and to the public they claim to be informing. Saying “no” stifles innovation, creative thinking and initiative. Saying “no” inhibits those still on hand to step beyond the artificial boundaries of “impartiality” when it means getting to the truth.

Above all, saying “no” drains journalists — and the journalism they create — of the personality and vitality that’s disappearing along with news holes.

But the neutering of newsrooms is a very hard habit to break, and it will continue as long as there are even a few souls who inhabit them.

What a waste of time and energy to tiptoe with trepidation around the future instead of stepping firmly into it.

A year on the fly: Ink-Drained Kvetch turns one

A year ago today I began this blog to chronicle the efforts of a mid-career journalist attempting to continue in the profession outside the newsroom.

But I’ve realized for a few months that “Reinventing a journalism career in the digital age” — while an admittedly catchy subtitle — doesn’t properly describe the course I have been taking.

I’m just one of thousands of journalism and media professionals forced to restart careers in the last year or two, and our ranks are bound to grow. My story isn’t unique as I’ve emerged from the cocoon of the newspaper industry quite unaware what existed in the “outside” world.

And I’ve had a blast venturing far beyond my comfort zone, re-energizing the passions that I thought had been slipping away. Getting outside an institutional way of thinking and learning has been the best thing I could have done. I’ve taken on freelance assignments, received some terrific multimedia training and career counseling at the Poynter Institute, participated in a local news startup and begun another blog that I may be close to monetizing soon.

I’ve been dubbed a blogging “madwoman” and I take this as a compliment. I’m also involved in another sports startup designed to help replace some of the coverage disappearing from newspapers.

But while journalism and media will always be a major focus of what I explore here, lately I’ve been venturing beyond those topics and the work I’ve known all of my adult life. Massive job losses are prompting a major rethinking of careers and journalists are no exception to developing new methods to position themselves. But I believe that those in the so-called “creative” professions have a marvelous opportunity to take advantage of this upheaval.

For many people in mid-career, this is an unnerving and scary prospect, and not how we thought we’d spend the rest of our working lives. I’ve felt this way at times, but mostly I’ve been excited by immersing myself in media, business, technology, law, career, web, democracy and cultural topics as they evolve during the digital age.

The new subtitle of this blog: “Ramblings on the future of media, work and creativity,” is influenced by my post-newsroom experiences and by trusted friends, former colleagues and new acquaintances who’ve helped me stretch old boundaries. I’ve also been reading authors and doers on the cutting edge of what’s transpiring in many of those fields. A partial list (shameless name-dropper alert!): Daniel Pink, Nick Carr, Chris Anderson, Clay Shirky, Lawrence Lessig, Jeff Jarvis, Arianna Huffington and David Weinberger.

I haven’t always agreed with them, and some of them drive me up the wall. But I love to learn from people eager to challenge common assumptions and shake up sacred views. They’ve made me confront my own, and it’s become a valuable exercise during a period of great uncertainty. What we think we know or understand now may be either wrong or outdated within a matter of weeks. We are living on the fly more now than at any time in our lives. Ironically and sadly, journalists haven’t always been able or willing to adapt, often equating the acquisition of new skills to learning a foreign language.

We were trained to be generalists, to handle different kinds of stories across many subjects, and often on tight breaking news deadlines. But somewhere along the way mainstream journalism became too insular, guarded and self-important and lost its vitality in the chokehold of corporate bureaucracy, ethics policies suitable for robots and the gospel of bland “objectivity.” It drained the passion from our work, and from ourselves.

In the past year I’ve begun to unwind and discover new horizons I never contemplated before. I probably know even less than I did a year ago where all this is going to lead.

One of the best bosses I ever had told me, as I made the transition from print to Web journalism, that the only thing that won’t be changing from now on is change. Nothing will be settled, little will stay the same and everything is guaranteed to be torn up and begun anew. Like it or not, just get used to it.

I’d like to think I have.

Some end-of-summer journalism reading

Catching up with some good journalism links that have been making their rounds around the journosphere in the last week or two:

The death of newspapers, part 1: “Being in the vanguard of a revolution does not guarantee that it will treat you kindly, as the national papers that have invested heavily in online news are discovering afresh. It does not even guarantee that your death will be remembered.”

The Internet Isn’t Killing Papers, We Are: “The reason that most beat reporters hung out in bars and got tips on stories from beat cops and bookies is because they made about the same as beat cops and bookies. It wasn’t romantic, it was hard, tiring work, and it paid poorly. And their bosses were more like Perry White than Lou Grant.”

12 Things Newspapers Should Do To Survive: “None of these are new, and it’s doubtful the suggestions — as good as they are — will be heeded. sorry, but what good is this constant repeating of the same online mantras if it is likely to fall on deaf ears.”

A short history of journalism’s future: “Do you recall ‘civic journalism’? What a howler that was. Flush with foundation money, newspapers and other media convened snoozola focus groups to lecture voters on issues the media deemed to be important. Then we covered the focus groups! That was a lot easier than, say, traveling all the way to New Hampshire to find out what voters were interested in.”

Newspaper cuts clip younger workers: “Newspapers have lost of lot of their mojo. If you are 25 or 35 (years old), you are going to be part of an industry that is going to thrive in the future. That is not the way newspapers are perceived right now, rightly or wrongly.”

25 things journalists can do to future-proof their careers: “But I’ve encountered literally dozens of offline hacks who sneer at ‘the internet’. To them, journalism can only be considered ‘proper’ if it finds a home in newsprint. I assume many of these people have since been certified clinically insane, as it’s totally nuts to think that a newspaper magically improves the quality of a story.”

10 online tools for journalists starting blogs: Is there a big chunk of money to be made from making your blog available on the Kindle? No. Will at least one person out there take advantage of being to get your blog on their Kindle? I hope so. The bottom line is there is nothing to lose by making your blog available and there is everything to gain.

Huffington Post+Facebook=The Future of Journalism: “The question is how permanent of a future it will be. Users can certainly reject the new initiatives, but that won’t stop publishers from foisting them forward. This kind of syndication and social tracking is just too much of a gold mine to ignore. Just because you don’t like something doesn’t mean it’s not important.”

Can Yahoo Save the News?: “There are two primary reasons some of these Internet aggregators may have a leg up on finding the ultimate business model for original content: 1) They already have experience giving audiences the kind of content they want on the new digital platforms; and, 2) They don’t have to support the legacy businesses, like print or broadcast, which have huge cost structures that are becoming less efficient as their audiences splinter off and require multiple distribution systems to reach.”

Journalism startups not a panacea: “The challenges faced in these organizations should not deter the establishment of new online initiatives or keep the rest of us from supporting them. We need to be realistic about their potential, however.”

Readings: Newspapers and democracy, the freelancing life, Craigslist and slow media

Some good long-form pieces on journalism, the media and related topics for some weekend reading. I’ve been thinking a lot this week about the fate of newspapers, but soon I’ll be unveiling a revamped blog concept designed to move far beyond those boundaries.

As usual, I seem to conclude this roundup with an admonition to get off the Web for a bit. It’s a great and wonderful thing, but not merely for its own sake:

Unnecessary death of an institution: “To see the word ‘I’ in any kind of piece written by a reporter is about as shocking a development as a reader can read in the Times. Suddenly Times reporters are writing in the first person. The next thing you know Times beat writers will be cheering in the press box.”

Vanishing down the ink hole: “Not to be snide about it, but is quality journalism the best tool to foster democracy? Advocates of participatory democracy and government accountability might be smarter to invest their time directly in reforming government.”

The Midnight Disease: Freelance Writing’s Joy and Terror: “One night, sharing drinks with a woman, long after the thrill of seeing my byline had died, she asked in wonderment, ‘Don’t you just love seeing your name in print?’ I replied: ‘I love seeing my name on a check.’ ”

Why not sell EveryBlock to a newspaper? “It’s like asking me, after I put together a band of musicians, why I didn’t choose the musician who spoke Portuguese. What difference does it make if a musician speaks Portuguese?”

The New Media Crisis of 1949: “Americans of all ages ­embraced TV unhesitatingly. They felt no loyalty to network radio, the medium that had entertained and informed them for a quarter-century. When something came along that they deemed superior, they switched off their radios without a second thought. That’s the biggest lesson taught by the new-media crisis of 1949. Nostalgia, like guilt, is a rope that wears thin.”

Of Media Poverty and Passion: “Add a healthy dose of old-fashioned journalistic passion to the mix, and you will be more successful than your father or any journalism professor ever could have imagined. That knowledge is all that keeps the hope within me alive after three consecutive layoffs, two of them within 10 months, in a changing media world. The future of journalism is both scary and exciting. It will be literally what we formerly ink-stained wretches make of it.”

Portrait of the Artist as a Digital Native: “As a creative type you can promote your work as much as you can online, you can give samples or all of your work for free, but until now a sure foot on ‘old’ media is still needed for success. Notions of authority, professionalism, quality, respectability and good artistic reputation are still defined by gate-kept models.”

Why Craigslist is such a mess: “It is easy to find hypocrisy in the idealism of a business owner who prescribes democracy for others while relieving himself of the tiresome burden of democratic consultation in the domain where he has the most power. But of course, craigslist is not a polity; it is just an online classified advertising site, one that manages to serve some basic human needs with startling efficiency. It is difficult to overstate the scale of this accomplishment.”

A Manifesto for Slow Communication: “Many of the values of the Internet are social improvements—it can be a great platform for solidarity, it rewards curiosity, it enables convenience. This is not the mani­festo of a Luddite, this is a human manifesto. If the technology is to be used for the betterment of human life, we must reassert that the Internet and its virtual information space is not a world unto itself but a supplement to our existing world.”