Another flap about which I don’t care

These three tweets from Jay Rosen sum up the whole Keith Olbermann thing and why I don’t really care about it.

MSNBC suspends Olbermann indefinitely for donating $ to Democratic candidates NBC rules clearly say you cannot do that.


Jay Rosen

As many have told me, NBC rules say don’t donate to candidates without getting approval from your boss. Olbermann did not do that. Ergo…


Jay Rosen

Whether NBC should have these rules, whether Keith’s suspension makes sense, whether they know what they are doing: all are open to doubt.


Jay Rosen

(Also, I really wanted to test out the new Blackbird Pie plugin.)

Realtors warn potential clients to be wary of the Web!

A story posted by KCRG warns potential renters and home buyer about the dangers of finding property online!

As technology improves, criminals keep finding new ways to scam people. Realtors say more and more con artists are trying to take advantage of people looking to buy or rent homes online.

See, Realtors nowadays have to compete harder for sales against for-sale-by-owner types (which can sell their homes for less since they don’t have to pay a commission to a real estate agent) because of, guess what, the INTERNET! So while buyers and rents should be careful using Craigslist, it seems that the Realtor source might be a little biased when warning potential clients to be wary of the Web.

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.

This shouldn’t be news: Reporters need the Web

One of the big changes in journalism these days has nothing to do the death of print or any other medium. Rather it’s this: journalists have a wide array of new, powerful tools available for news and information gathering.

“I hate the term ‘computer-assisted reporting. It’s as ridiculous term as ‘notebook-assisted reporting,'” said  Steve Buttry, The Gazette‘s editor turned “information content conductor,” when we talked for last month’s Corridor Business Journal “Fifth Estate” column on how journalism education needs to change to be relevant.

Indeed, all reporting is computer assisted these days. At least it should be. Google alerts and RSS feeds can push a constant stream of relevant information to journalists (and can be further filtered and refined with tools such as Yahoo Pipes); Twitter, Facebook and other social networks can make finding sources easier; Publish2 and Reporting On give journalists the ability to collaborate with each other (and, now, with readers, too).

Many journalism educators haven’t incorporated these tools (or even more mainstream tools such as blogging) into their classes, perhaps because they’re resistant to change or simply don’t know about them. But computers (and that means the Web) are now integral to a reporter’s job.

Part of the problem with journalism and journalism education moving forward, Mr. Buttry suggested, is the old-school mindset that “computer-assisted reporting,” a now outdated term for the database- and data-driven reporting, is a separate discipline from, you know, “regular” reporting.

So let’s stop wasting time debating whether students or reporters can live without online tools. Whether their producing multimedia, interactive databases, cops-and-courts,  education, television, long-form features or wahtever, journalists need to understand the Web. Period.

You should read Todd Dorman

24hourdormanI complain about The Gazette in this space a lot, partially because it’s a good target as the largest media company in the Corridor Crandic, and partially because I want it to be a great organization. So, today, some kudos.

Todd Dorman is a guy who gets it. Three columns a week about stuff that matters and, more importantly in this day and age, gets how to blog. Interesting, value added links, regularly updated. Witty. Snarky. If I lived in Linn County, this stuff would be even more relavent.

(Full disclosure: I worked with Mr. Dorman’s wife, Katherine Perkins, during a stint at Iowa Public Radio.)

The Gazette’s reoganization

In Monday’s Corridor Business Journal is the first of what we plan to be a monthly media column that I will write with John Goodlove. In this installment, we wrote about the recent announcement that The Gazette is restructuring its newsroom, and the following staff uneasiness.

Mr. Goodlove is a grizzled newspaper veteran while I’m younger and more interested in multimedia and online news; co-writing the column forces us to question each other’s assumptions and temper our emotions, particularly important this time around considering John’s status as a former Gazetteer.

But while the column is the two of us, this blog is just me and  I want to expand a little.

First, some basic information: The Gazette is separating its content production — reporters, photographers and a few editors — from its product planning and production — copy editors, designers and, now, some business types to help focus products on audiences. (The jobs and titles will be different than they are right now and, Gazette Managing Editor Steve Buttry says, the roles will be different.) Reporters will be asked to break news and build audiences on their individual blogs and will have yet-to-be-defined incentives to do so, but pay might be based on metrics such as page views, Twitter followers and superusers recruited. The idea, it seems, is to transform the newsroom from one centered around print to one centered around the Web’s immediacy and audience interaction.

In the Journal piece, we suggest that these incentives could lead to sensationalism, link baiting and the ignoring of important-but-not-glamorous news if The Gazette isn’t careful. I still believe that, but I’m also very excited to see this newspaper take necessary steps to redefine itself.

News traditions need to change, and the only people who don’t believe that are in denial. Clearly there are problems with the traditional business model (it feels like I link to this depressing map, now up to 2,308 lost newspaper jobs, in every post). While the recession isn’t helping, the problems aren’t simply a cyclical thing that we need to weather.  The Internet has changed the way much of our audience gets information; news can no longer be a broadcast. News now requires real, meaningful interaction with, to use Jay Rosen’s phrase, the people formerly known as the audience.

Radio and television have the ability to interact with users in real-time. Print doesn’t. And while the death of print has been greatly exaggerated, this is a significant disadvantage for the medium. Newspapers that stick their heads in the sand and refuse to acknowledge their readers will perish.

Is The Gazette taking a risk? Sure. It’s angering its employees, it might produce worse journalism and it could end up killing the entire news organization. But it’s a choice between adopting a model that might not work and sticking with a model we know won’t.

I don’t think the organization is going to lose sight of its duty to serve a watchdog function in eastern Iowa; what I see are thoughtful, forward-thinking people throughout the organization. Others, with inside perspectives, may see if differently. This reorganization will allow the company to find ways to serve its audience and the community — beyond some it already has — by creating new outlets for its reporting while sustaining the newspaper that has been its focus for so long.