Posts tagged journalism
Posts tagged journalism
Scan through Techmeme and you’ll see a showcase of headline writing and audience targeting.
While a revenue jolt like that is sure to grab the attention of any publisher, most newspapers in the rest of country lack the substantial body of compelling, exclusive content and the unparalleled concentration of wealthy readers that are enjoyed by the Times.
What the publishers do have, however, are any number of local broadcasters and other online competitors who will be only too happy to reprise, re-report or otherwise repurpose the stories for which the newspapers hope to charge.
I couldn’t agree more. The New York Times is unfairly — and incorrectly — used in “future of news” conversations. Unlike most news outlets, the Times has valuable information, an excellent track record, and a dedication to experimentation.
The Times may very well get away with a paywall (I tend to think not, but we’ll see). A dinky metro or a local that’s 2 degrees removed from the Weekly Shopper need to be realistic — you are not the New York Times. You might aspire to that, but in moments of honest reflection you’ll see that all the “want” in the world isn’t going to get you there.
On a related note: I’ve been around both academics and journalists, and I have yet to figure out which group overvalues their work more.
A great observation by Nick Summers:
… while entry-level gigs in journalism are still hard to come by, where they are to be found, they’re mostly in aggregation. “Yeah, I think that coming in and doing curation and aggregation in many ways is the new ‘go out to a small paper and earn your stripes covering the school board,’” Bob Cohn, the editorial director of Atlantic Digital, told The Observer.
Amen. This is why I can never be a prying reporter. There are bigger things at play:
They will rationalize the prying story by saying that Apple is a public company and investors need—nay, deserve—this information.
The truth is, there is no real news value to any of this stuff. The only real value to any of these stories is that they generate page views. And the guys who are doing it, whether they write for a blog or for The New York Times, know the truth of what they’re doing, and they do it anyway. If you really want to learn about cancer and liver transplants, you can go to the library. If you’re an investor and really can’t live with the uncertainty that today’s announcement brings to Apple stock, well, sell your shares and thank Steve Jobs for the ridiculous profits you’ve made. If you decide to hang on to your shares, that’s fine too—but don’t go around claiming that your handful of shares gives you the right to pry into the private life of a sick man.
David Carr delivers the best piece of media analysis I’ve seen all year. The entire column is worth a read, but I was struck by points Carr makes in the following paragraph:
Julian Assange, WikiLeaks’s founder and guiding spirit, apparently began to understand that scarcity, not ubiquity, drives coverage of events. Instead of just pulling back the blankets for all to see, he began to limit the disclosures to those who would add value through presentation, editing and additional reporting. In a sense, Mr. Assange, a former programmer, leveraged the processing power of the news media to build a story and present it in comprehensible ways. (Of course, as someone who draws a paycheck from a mainstream journalism outfit, it may be no surprise that I continue to see durable value in what we do even amid the journalistic jujitsu WikiLeaks introduces.)
Journalism outlets have flopped about in recent years, desperate to latch on to some bit of justification for their existence. Carr, without really trying, zeroes in on the one thing they need to do:
… build a story and present it comprehensible ways.
That’s it. Storytelling is and always will be a vital structure of cognition. We’re hard-wired to understand stories. We need these things.
Any content-centric organization that wants to continue to exist in five years must genuflect before storytelling. It is the gravitational center of information, and all editorial decisions, business models, and revenue streams, need to orbit around it.
Look at that. I mean it. Look at that gorgeous interface up there
If this is the future of multimedia reporting, we’re in good hands. This report elegantly combines video interviews, annotated information (that appears as you watch the clips), metadata, related links — including Twitter handles for interview subjects — and a variety of common sharing tools. It is the best merging of web-based reporting and information I’ve seen to date.
I’m committing the sin of plucking a quote from its context, but this beautiful line from the esteemed Hunter S. Thompson summarizes my current cynicism toward much of the journalism industry:
As far as I’m concerned, it’s a damned shame that a field as potentially dynamic and vital as journalism should be overrun with dullards, bums, and hacks, hag-ridden with myopia, apathy, and complacence, and generally stuck in a bog of stagnant mediocrity.
God bless you, Hamilton Nolan:
At a certain point, once arguments have gone around in circles for a number of years, it’s best to just agree that all the contrasting points have been made, and move on. Because re-making these points again and again does nothing more than reveal the speaker as (at best) a cliche-spouting bore, or (at worst) a crank. Does anyone want to read transcripts of talk radio arguments between Red Sox and Yankees fans over whose team is the fawkin best? No, and likewise, nobody wants to read a transcript of a speech from the editor of a famous newspaper spouting platitudes about the evil of (some) blogs. Not even me, although I have to, for work.
I added this as a comment to Megan Garber’s post:
The run-and-gun style of the videos is certainly notable, but let’s not forget that these clips are also entertaining as hell. The guy’s delivery is fantastic (so much so, he landed a talent deal with NBC).
How is that relevant to the news business? It all comes down to value: Was I informed? Was I entertained? Did this content justify its existence in my world? Had these clips employed the same production value without the humor, no one would be talking about them.
There are still plenty of newsroom jobs that can be eliminated
It pains me to write those words. I don’t like to see fellow journalists lose their jobs, and I want my students to find gainful employment after they graduate. But the truth is that newspapers experienced an unprecedented rise in prosperity between 1960 and 2005, as former Washington Post managing editor Steve Coll pointed out in an interview with National Public Radio. During that golden age, newspaper companies were awash in so much money that they couldn’t help but invest some of it in journalism. For instance, Washington Post publisher Katharine Weymouth said following a round of cuts earlier this year that her paper still employed some 800 full-time journalists – more than double the number that worked at the Post during the Watergate glory days of the 1970s. Thus, when a large regional paper such as the Boston Globe concentrates on its local mission and eliminates nearly all of its staff-produced international and national reporting, it is merely returning to the model that prevailed before the 1960s and 1970s. It’s hardly an admission of defeat if most of the Globe’s non-local stories (it still maintains a robust Washington bureau) are from the Associated Press, Reuters, the NYT and other news services.
The size issue is something I’ve been mulling lately. I don’t think large media organizations — newspapers and broadcast most notably — are going to disappear altogether. They’re going to be smaller though. A lot smaller. The nichefication of content is not limited to the Web. Niches are, by their nature, not all-encompassing. There’s no need for massive overhead and large staffs. Moreover, it’s quite possible the total number of journalism jobs will increase once all the nonsense of ‘08 and ‘09 sorts out. But those jobs will be spread out over a lot of different outlets.
Speaking from a little bit of experience organizing events, these things are enormously expensive. I have a lessons learned document full of post-event observations and the biggest one is this: never underestimate cost. I’m guessing the real cost of all these future of journalism conferences is exponentially higher than the author of the following excerpt suggests:
Not surprisingly, no one would reveal how much Yale’s conference cost. (Harvard also declined to comment.) But when you estimate the cost of an event that includes 17 Yale and 37 non-Yale speakers — with two or three nights at The Study for out-of-towners; travel expenses from North Carolina, Michigan, and even Sweden; and meals, including an invitation-only cocktail reception and dinner — it’s easy to see how quickly it adds up. To be fair, no one at either conference received any kind of speaking fee.
My fervent hope, meanwhile, is that journalists will take an interest in where their compensation comes from. This for-profit field has been an oddity in letting its practitioners, the people who create the stuff that consumers consume, be blissfully ignorant of how their businesses run.
I’m not saying that all journalism needs to produce money at some profitable ratio directly attributable to the pieces produced. But being unaware of anything having to do with the cash flows that support the news operation is a luxury we can no longer afford.
Well put. I’ve never understood the animosity toward the business side of journalism. It’s not evil. It’s not even a necessary evil. It’s just business. And if you understand your business even in a basic sense, you inherently comprehend how you fit into the broader structure. That’s important. It’s also one of the key underlying causes of all the current turmoil. A deep distrust of business, to the point of phobia, has halted the forward progress of many smart journalists who still have a lot to offer. Business savvy is the key that unlocks future opportunities. Who wouldn’t want that?
The days of silo-based thinking are coming to an end (thank god):
Like many of the journo nonprofits cropping up these days, the Tribune will distribute its work through its own website and via “distribution partners.” That’s not only smart, it’s necessary. Building a brand and destination website from scratch is tricky business (just ask Geoff Dougherty) so getting your name out there in as many outlets as possible is a very good idea. Where the Tribune goes where others have not is the idea that the organization can provide a platform for civic engagement through its “on-the-record, open-to-the-public events.”
Picking up the thread from Ann Handley’s excellent piece: The more I encounter folks who don’t have a journalism background — and the accompanying struggles they sometimes have in adapting to Web community, conversation and content — the more I realize all those journalism classes and years of training have given me a leg up in the Web world. Strong headlines, copy editing, fact checking, healthy cynicism, substance over fluff, identifying intent, audience advocacy, clarity above all else — all were burned into my soul by fantastic teachers, and all work exceptionally well on the Web. Journalists just get this stuff. What the industry becomes — and how it makes money — are issues that need to be ironed out, but I have no doubt journalism skills will yield excellent return on investment in the digital realm.
Via Bob Stepno’s boblog.