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 http://jr.ly/5qn7 NBC rules clearly say you cannot do that.
@jayrosen_nyu
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…
@jayrosen_nyu
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.
@jayrosen_nyu
Jay Rosen

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

Metaphors: horse carriages and a really dumb quarterback

A quarterback who just doesn’t get it
Dave Winer to Jay Rosen, 33 minutes into Rebooting the News #43

It’s like in football. … When the quarterback gets the ball, the quarterback always turns back and runs a few yards back before even thinking about passing the ball. And you think, “Why is the quarterback doing that? He’s giving up yardage. I mean, he’s running the wrong way.” Well he do it to find some little bit of room so he can see whats out there. So, in the new industry, they’re never willing to do that. They’re always standing right at the scrimmage line, not budging an inch. And of course what happens — they get tackled every goddamn time and they can never throw the ball.

A misnamed  car
Andrew Spittle on Twitter, discussing how using the term “computer-assisted reporting,” instead of referring online tools, is silly.

CAR would be like calling a car an “engine assisted horse carriage”

Metaphors: Selling snowmen

Selling snowmen to Eskimos
Information Architects‘ “The Value of Information

Information on the Internet is as common as snow in the arctic. You can’t expect Eskimos to buy a snowman.

Jay Rosen on Twitter

Journalist: hey, I made a snowman. Inuit: nice! Journalist: it took me all day. Inuit: what’s your point? Journalist: that’ll be five bucks.

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: 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.

What “new-media journalism” skills do you need, anyway?

Combing through my RSS feeds earlier this week, I came across a post from Rob Curley looking for interns. I posted a link on Twitter, which then goes to FriendFeed and Facebook (which, sadly, still makes it impossible to find permalinks), since the Las Vegas Sun is doing really cool things and thought my students would do well to apply.

One of my current multimedia students shot me a message:

Read the description of his internship openings in his blog and I definitely feel like the student he’s talking about, that can write but has no other “new-media journalism” skills. In your opinion, aside from what we’re doing in your class, what more can I do to get up to speed with what’s going on in the profession currently and make myself more marketable after graduating? Any pointers would be appreciated!

It’s a good question, and one that a few years ago wouldn’t have been asked. (I think there are fewer students who go into journalism because they want to be “a writer” these days, but I have no hard evidence to back that up.) I though it would be worth posting my answer here.

This is a tricky question. A few years ago, knowing how to do a little bit of everything — writing, video, audio, photography, coding — could land you a job at a pretty plum news organization (I remember seeing a multimedia job at The Baltimore Sun a few years ago that was an entry-level position, for example), even if you weren’t great at any one thing. But multimedia production has become more specialized. Photographers tend to be the videographers and audio gatherers and SoundSlide producers. Lots of organizations have specialized data teams that include some heavy-duty coders (and talented journalists in their own right). But there is no such thing as “just a writer” anymore, for better or for worse, except for people such as The New York Times‘s re-write man Robert D. McFadden.

I think you’ll want to practice, hone and refine the skills we’re teaching in multimedia introduction (a five-week, 1 credit-hour course required of all majors that touches on HTML, video and audio collection and editing, blogging, social media, writing for the Web and multimedia packaging). You’ll want to understand cross-platform news production, how to package and re-package news for different platforms and products. Knowing how to code HTML/CSS/JavaScript would be helpful, too, as would learning how to put together an audio slide show. Understanding social media and how to use tools like Twitter and Facebook to find sources and stories — as well as promote your own work  —  is important.

J-schools don’t have the resources to teach all the new media skills you’ll need, so willingness to learn on your own will be key. But much of what you learn in school will be obsolete in a few years, anyway. Things will continue to change as technology changes. The move to mobile phones as the main news delivery device is getting closer and with that will come more stuff to learn.

So keep learning. Read industry blogs and follow interesting journalists and professors and college students on Twitter (and maybe even the crazy ones). Read, watch and listen critically. Be hungry. If you want it, you’ll find a place in this new media landscape.

Of course, a lot of it depends on what, exactly, you want to do. Photographers don’t need to know how to code in ActionScript, but some do. And the more you know, the easier it will be to get a job that you actually want when you’re finished school. But don’t forget the basics, the foundations. You’ll still have to know how to report, how to interview and how write. That’s not going to change.

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.