Archive for the ‘Innovation’ Category

A Lab for ‘The Reconstruction of American Journalism’

Wednesday, January 13th, 2010

This week is the first of a new semester in my Public Affairs Reporting for New Media class — a journalism class in which the students must work 30 hours with a community partner over the course of the semester. Our goal this semester — expose the students to all of the journalism models that Len Downie and Michael Schudson outline as potential replacements for a decline in public affairs reporting at newspapers.

This semester, the 18 students in the class will be divided among four partners:

  • the North Carolina Center for Voter Education, a non-profit funded largely by foundation money and private donations;
  • OrangePolitics.org, a liberal blog about local politics run part-time by a single “citizen jouranlist”;
  • N.C. DataNet, a newsletter of from UNC-Chapel Hill’s Program on Public Life, edited by a former News & Observer reporter and opinion editor;
  • a public broadcast outlet here in North Carolina.

If any of these sources will be part of the reconstruction of American journalism, the students in the class will help determine how it’s reconstructed. At the very least, the students will be able to report back to the rest of us more details about what they find in these laboratories of post-newspaper news.

Stay tuned… and add your suggested reading for the class via the Delicious bookmark tag JOMC491-examples-s10.

Predictions for the Decade? Nano Journalism?

Sunday, January 3rd, 2010

From Saturday’s News and Observer article, “Future looks small to experts”

“What I see a lot of today is the realization of ideas that were being tried unsuccessfully in 1999,” Thornburg said. “A lot of the ideas we see as trends today were dismissed as flops 10 years ago.”

Among the trends to look for in information and news, Thornburg said, will be the rise of content targeted to a user’s location at a given moment, via ubiquitous high-speed Internet access. Other possibilities include new markets for buying and selling small pieces of information, and a divide between high-quality information that people pay for and free lower-end news – often focused on social and political points of view, entertainment or sports.

U2’s Bono Sings the Battle Cry for Online News

Thursday, June 25th, 2009

“You didn’t come all the way out here to watch TV, now didya!?”

Standing in the outfield of a giant baseball stadium under the glow of more than 40 video walls and monitors, the lead singer of the rock group U2 aimed his remote up at the screens and flipped from station to station while tens of thousands of concert-goers screamed and cheered. It was the fall of 1992. CNN had just made history with the first live video coverage of a war, and somewhere in a computer lab at the University of Illinois – in a town that could have comfortably fit its entire population in the sports stadium – researchers were about six months away from launching the first graphical Web browser.

The hundreds of channels on cable TV were about to be dwarfed by millions of Web pages. The mass media that was able to send one message to an entire planet all at the same time and had defined a shared American experience for more than a half century was about to be replaced by communication technology that would blend the telephone with the television and the postal service and the printing press to form a decentralized network of news and information that would allow every – or everyone with a computer and Internet access – to talk to everyone else all at the same time.

The online news audience doesn’t spend an average of 35 minutes every day because they need another glowing box. News organizations that aren’t committed to giving their audience something fundamentally different should quit throwing money at their Web site and start re-investing in legacy media.

They didn’t come all the way out here to watch TV. Stop giving them a news product. Let them visit news experience. They’ll pay for that.

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Rerun Posts: Who Drives the Vision? Who Takes the Risk?

Tuesday, June 16th, 2009

The question that keeps coming up in recent discussions about experimentation and fertile failure is this: Who will drive the vision and who will take the risk that journalism needs to get over this hump?

As a preamble, I’m re-running two blog posts (…hmm, I wonder if “the long tail” is going to make the word re-run go the way of the turntable…anyway…) that highlight the challenge and two potential answers:

After the jump, I’m looking for where we might be most likely to find the fertile failures and experimentors that journalism needs.

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J-Schools: Breeding Ground for Fertile Failure

Monday, June 15th, 2009

For a lot of very good reasons the word “failure” is not welcome in newsrooms. The aversion probably begins in  j-schools when we give automatic Fs to students who write news stories about “Thornberg” or “Thornburgh” instead of “Thornburg,” it continues with 2 a.m. panic attacks about transposing quotes, and probably calcifies completely with the fear of being sued for libel. In short, journalists don’t get paid for making mistakes. Good. They shouldn’t.

But a failure is not always a mistake, especially in the context of an experiment that fails to prove a widely held belief. Experiments that fail often lead to entirely new lines of inquiry and new understanding about the world. To enjoy this kind of fertile failure that yields innovation, you have to pursue success in the right way. Fertile failure is most likely when you tackle a very specific, very big question with small experiments that are conducted as quickly and cheaply as possible.

Universities, where failure leads both to the creation of new ideas as well as the ability to shed old ideas, should be ideal partners for risk-averse news organizations. Here are a few ideas about how journalism schools can be breeding grounds for fertile failure.

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The One Tool Your Newsroom Needs Right Now: A Failure Form

Wednesday, June 10th, 2009

The other day I wrote about the need for newsrooms to encourage experimentation rather than innovation. OK, but how? Here’s one tool you can download right now and use in your newsroom — the Failure Form, to be used by reporters and editors who want to pursue a crazy idea.

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Innovation Isn’t Enough

Tuesday, June 9th, 2009

The role of innovation in news has come up in several conversations I’ve had with folks over the last few weeks, and I’ve come to the conclusion that the pursuit of innovation may be fun as all get out, but on its own it does not do enough to move the industry forward. What we need instead of innovation is experimentation.

What’s the difference between innovation and experimentation? Innovation only values success. Experimentation also values failure.

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Advice to Future Magazine Editors

Thursday, April 16th, 2009

Contrary to what seems to be popular opinion, magazines have a strong future online, I think. But their future depends completely on the leadership and innovation of publishers and editors, as I told the Carolina Association of Future Magazine Editors last night.

The audio of the talk is after the jump.

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Innovative Student Journalism in the Works

Wednesday, March 25th, 2009

The students in JOMC 491: “Public Affairs Reporting for New Media” are developing some bang-up stories and tools. For anyone interested in the future of news, in North Carolina civic life or in education policy, their projects are worth reading … and engaging.

More here.

Corrected: How Many Online Journalists in the U.S.?

Monday, March 16th, 2009

Correction: March 16, 10:10 a.m. ET

Update: March 6, 10:44 a.m. ET

Following the news that the Seattle Post-Intelligencer is likely to go online-only if it stops printing sometime after March 10, Ken Doctor wrote on his blog, Content Bridges, uses some loose estimates to wonder if newspaper newsrooms are about to go from employing 44,000 journalists to 6,600.

A recent scan of newspaper mastheads and some loose estimates of my own put the number of online journalists currently working in the U.S. at between four and five thousand.

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