Des Moines Register’s Yepsen replacement is married to a lobbist

The Des Moines Register has finally found someone to replace longtime political columnist David Yepsen. Kathie Obradovich, the paper’s poltical editor, took the post.

The Register‘s story announcing the change mentioned, in a throwaway line at the end, that Obradovich “is married to Jim Obradovich, a lobbyist for multiple Iowa organizations including the Iowa Environmental Council and the Iowa Wind Energy Association.”

Not that she hasn’t been operating with this way for a while, but doesn’t the Register owe us a greater explaination of this potential conflict of interest for what is considered a pretty prominent media job?

Don’t change the paper. This is your final warning


This comes by way of a friend who works at a Florida paper.

Let’s not forget that as much as we think newspapers and news organizations need to change, we as journalists live in a bubble. It’s wrong to assume everyone of our readers is like us. Readers don’t tend to get pissed off about laying off the copy desk or taking away an inch or two of width.

What they will send letters that could get them arrested about is removal of particular comic strips, changing crossword-puzzle syndicates or changing of the TV guide.

Dear Future Journalism Graduates, Some Advice

Because I graduated from a journalism masters’ program last year, my alma mater has sent me three identical surveys on my opinion of my education. (Why didn’t I answer the first two they sent? Because they were sending them to my parents’ house where I haven’t lived for more than a decade.)

The survey’s final question, Number 47, asks me to provide advice for 2009 journalism and mass communication graduates. The only advice that’s going to do them any good at this point is: be willing to work cheap and go where ever the job is. Work hard, harder than required, and be willing to freelance and work part time and have another job that pays the rent and offers health insurance.

But for graduates in 2010 and beyond, I have more advice. They’re still in J-school. While I suggested there are a ton of different things you should learn as a journalism student, many schools, including my own (which I now teach at) don’t teach them all. So my first piece of advice: Work hard, harder than required. You want to make it? Find something that interests you – programming, data visualization, computer assisted reporting – and learn it during a break. School has lots of those. Treat learning like a job where you only have one week of vacation each year. School is great because you can spend the time learning what you want to learn. You don’t have to do some of the mindless, boring stories that young reporters and interns often get saddled with. Even if your school does teach Django, ActionScript and Flash, mapping, social networking, Photoshop, blogging, audio production, etc., your semester or two won’t be enough. Do more on your own time.

Take writing classes. Writing is important. Take audio and video classes. Take HTML and online classes. But don’t compartmentalize them; think about how they relate to each other. Think about how different stories work better using different storytelling mediums and techniques.

Take classes outside of the journalism school. Here’s one I failed to do. I was dissapointed that, after I took a class in HTML and CSS, which I really enjoyed and did well at, there were no other classes that technical in the j-school. But I never took a class from the computer science department. I never took a class in business to learn how I might make a living doing my own project. I never took a photography class. Take classes outside of your comfort area.

Work on your own projects. Better yet, make everything you work on your own project. Even the boring assignments. Make them something you can be proud of. If you need your instructor to bend the rules a little bit, ask. If they say no, do it anyway and then sell the piece. You’re not doing this for grades. You’re doing this more experience and clips and renown.

Bleed your education for all it’s worth. Someone’s paying for your education. Make it worth it. Ask for Demand extra. Pester your professors with questions and for connections. Ask them to work through drafts with you. But don’t do it because you’re being lazy. Don’t ask questions that were covered in class. Don’t ask for help with your unproofed drafts.

Involve yourself. Work for the school paper. Write a professional blog and take it seriously. Get on Twitter and use it to find sources and pimp your stories. Read and comment on other blogs you find interesting. Participate in class. Life is more interesting that way.

Digest the media you consume. Not just the Times subscription your Introduction to Reporting and Writing instructor requires you to have. But the great audio slide show on and at the Las Vegas Sun. Stay up with Romenesko. Read some big-time blogs that interest you. Think about what makes it work the way it does. Be critical.

There are jobs for journalism graduates and there always will be. They aren’t jobs you can just fall into anymore, but they’re there. You just have to work hard.

Metaphors: Genie

A Loose Genie
Time Inc. CEO Ann Moore, quoted in Peter Kafka’s Time Inc. CEO Ann Moore: Let’s Put the Digital “Genie Back In the Bottle”

Poor John Squires. The Time Inc. SVP seems like an affable fellow. So what has he done to deserve this impossible task–figuring out a digital strategy for Time Warner’s (TWX) publishing unit? Or, to put it in Time Inc. CEO Ann Moore’s words, figuring out “how to put the genie back in the bottle”?

Metaphors: Migrating Tribe

A Migrating Tribe
Jay Rosen’s Migration Point for the Press Tribe

And like reluctant migrants everywhere, the people in the news tribe have to decide what to take with them, when to leave, where to land. They have to figure out what is essential to their way of life, and which parts were well adapted to the old world but may be unnecessary or a handicap in the new. They have to ask if what they know is portable. What life will be like across the digital sea is of course an unknown to the migrant. This creates an immediate crisis for the elders of the tribe, who have always known how to live.

Metaphors: A Café

A Café
Daniel Bachhuber’s Newsroom as a cafe

It’s not just about using a different industry to add to reporting revenue, but rather repositioning the news organization as the information hub for the community. The newsroom as a cafe should be an 18th century salon, or space for the leading discussions of the day to take place, ferment, and spawn action.

David Cohn’s Journalism Business Idea – the Newsroom Cafe

What I imagine is a newsroom that is also a cafe. Of course the reporters would have desks somewhere private to do work (a 2nd floor would be ideal), but the front of the newsroom would be a public space where people could get coffee, eat a bagel, use the wireless, etc. At least one reporter would be on-hand to talk with members of the public during business hours. These would be publicly announced “office hours.” We wouldn’t make a big pony-show of it, it would just be a part of the cafe’s appeal. You may just be hanging out – but perhaps you’ll end up in a news story!

Metaphors: Ships, Williamsburg

Last Ship Afloat and Colonial Williamsburg
Bill Keller, The New York Times‘ executive editor, and Jason Jones in The Daily Show‘s “End Times”

Keller: It’s always been one of the higher asperations in the business to work for The New York Times. Nowadays, we’re a little bit like the last ship afloat. So we have all these lifeboats floating around underneath us and people dying to clamber on board.

Jones: Your lifeboat is made of paper.

Jones: You guys are like a walking Colonial Williamsburg

Metaphors: Waves, Coral Reef, Planets and Goliath

You can read the premise behind this in the orginal news metaphor post, which was linked to by Jim Romenesko, Jay Rosen and The New York Times‘ David Carr, among others. That post has grown unmanageably large so I’ve created a category for it. You can still suggest metaphors via e-mail, Twitter, Publish2 (tagged “newsmetaphors”) or the comments.

Pushing Back at the Ocean
Steve Outing’s No solution to news problems? Hah!

The newspaper industry is seeing bankruptcies, layoffs, the loss of serious watchdog journalism, and a sickening decline in quality because of the “situation.” While a sour economy is clearly a big part of the problem, the biggest problem is that the industry’s leaders seem to think there are no good solutions other than wading in the ocean and pushing back the waves (i.e., tectonic changes in consumer behavior and advertiser spending patterns).

A Coral Reef
Jay Rosen and Dave Winer’s Rebooting the News podcast No. 12

(I haven’t had a change to pull the exact quote. I will.)

Planets in Orbit
Dan Pacheco’s Newspapers Need A Galileo

It’s not that different from the geocentric view of the universe that Galileo correctly identified as false, but the Catholic Church fought until the bitter end. Likewise, newspapers, and many large media companies, still assume that they are at the center of the local universe, when in fact they’re really planets spinning around suns which orbit galaxies. They still have an important role, but until they realize that they’re one part of a larger system they’re operating out of an illusion.

David and Goliath
Charles Arthur’s David v Goliath in the newsroom, and why we need new wrappers for journalism

OK: now see the publishers of Gizmodo, Engadget, Gawker, TechCrunch et al as the Davids, fighting the Goliaths of the New York Times and, of course, the Guardian and all the other papers. Should they fight on the same terms? If they want to get beaten, sure. They’ll never be able to find the experienced journalists, the experienced sales people, the special something that the papers have been able to build up over decades. The papers have the news process down pat. They can get those stories into paper-sized parcels and out to people so effectively there’s no room left.

So the blogs have to create their own battlefield, their own rules, and fight there.

Armies of Unequal Strength
Jeff Jarvis’s David, Meet Goliath

Right. They have things to learn from each other if they can stop sniping long enough to notice how few of them are left standing on the battlefield. But their culture expectations get in the way. To continue Charles’ war metaphor: It’s the Redcoats vs. the rebels; the GIs vs the Vietcong. When the new guy breaks the rules, protesting that they’re doing it wrong does no good. Learn. That’s what I was trying to say.