Archive for the ‘Online Newsrooms’ 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.

News Organizations Should Not Be Online

Tuesday, January 12th, 2010

Monday kicked off a new semester, and I started by challenging the students in my online news production class with this statement: News organizations should not have a Web site.

The statement picks up on a session I led at last summer’s N.C. Press Association’s Newspaper Academy. In a time of tight budgets, news organizations must be focused on delivering their core product, service or experience. Everything they do must be justified — including having a Web site. Unless a news organization can clearly state why they have an online presence, they should drop it.

The students’ responses focused on the Web as a platform for competing on breaking news and for reaching audiences — especially young people — where they are. My goal for the semester is to help them see that online journalism is a wonderful tool for telling more memorable and relevant news stories, and not just about 24/7 distribution.

Make your anonymous argument after the jump — can you articulate a clear, rational, viable reason that your news organization should be online? Or make your public comment for attribution here.

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Examples of UNC’s Online Student Journalism

Friday, January 8th, 2010

With a new semester about to begin on Monday, I wanted to share some of the work done by some of the students in UNC-Chapel Hill’s JOMC 463: Newsdesk (PDF) class last semester. The assignment was this: Do an online profile of a person or organization using interactivity and multiple media. They were limited by producing the story in a somewhat wonky version of a Drupal-based CMS that I had set up for the class.

The bottom line is this: most of this student work was very good, and it’s important to show industry and other journalism students how we’re preparing the next generation to lead change in newsrooms. Students are young and therefore their work is not perfect, but it can be awfully good. Here are three examples, and the reason that each gives me hope for the future of journalism. (more…)

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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Newspaper Corrections: Sources Now Share the Obligation

Monday, June 1st, 2009

Handling errors and corrections online is good topic for newsroom debate. The dual challenge is that online text can be updated/fixed/improved/corrected at any time and it’s also always available. That means errors can get corrected quickly, but those that don’t can damage credibility long past the daily print edition.

In a world where anyone can publish a blog, professional journalists need to emphasize accuracy and credibility even more. But the reductions in staff at almost all newsrooms in America is putting a squeeze on quality control.

This story from last week’s News & Observer provides an interesting case study. The piece quoted me, but mistakenly said I had worked for USA Today. When I saw the error, I emailed the reporter and used the article’s comments section to quickly post my own correction.

In the last week, though, I never heard back from the reporter. It turns out he was on furlough. He sent an apologetic note once he got back. That said, the fact error remains online.

So, let’s walk through what’s wrong (and right) with this picture:

1. Error gets in the news article. Yes, this is an automatic F in my introductory newswriting classes, but it’s certainly not the end of the world. Many people would wisely artgue that these kinds of pernicous little errors are going to become more common, though, as reporters take on the work of departed colleagues and stories get fewer reads by editors before they go to press.

2. Vigilant sources can use comments to correct errors in the article. This is incredibly empowering and could go a long way to increasing trust in journalism. You often hear sources say they spot errors in reporting but never bother to ask for a correction because they figure the reporters and editors won’t care anyway. For the most part I think that’s the opposite of true. But it also doesn’t matter now — sources have the ability, and even the obligation, to correct errors of fact. To not do so is to complictly accept and tolerate inaccuracy.

3. Someone at the N&O should have been monitoring these comments and alerting the appropriate editors to corrections. The primary reason the comments section on newspaper articles are so low-brow is because the (already thinly spread) staff is not participating in them. Which leads us back to the old sentiment among sources and readers — that newspaper editors just don’t care about what I have to say.

This example highlights the two key components to success in the future of news — high levels of accuracy and engagement. Journalists who don’t pursue both are in danger of becoming quickly irrelevant.

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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Survey of Online Journalists: They’re Young, White Copyeditors

Thursday, April 2nd, 2009

Earlier this week, the Pew Research Center’s Project for Excellence in Journalism came out with a survey about the attitudes of online journalists. I’m sad to say that the survey has limited use in charting a path for the future of news, but it did make me feel a lot better about the response rate in my recently completed national survey of online journalists.

Pew hired Princeton Survey Research Associations International to conduct its poll of 1,201 members of the Online News Association. They had a 24 percent response rate. I paid two grad students and an undergrad to help me survey 174 online journalists (mostly non-members of ONA). We had a 29 percent response rate.

But even more importantly, I think the survey we did here at UNC does a much better job showing us the future of news… which is bright if you dream of a future of inexperienced, homogeneous copyeditors shuffling text around a Web page.

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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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Why Do We Need a CMS?

Saturday, February 21st, 2009

A bit of career advice for anyone in an online news organization: Never get roped in to leading the creation of your site’s new content management system. Yes, you may realize that the business rules that underly the CMS will determine who has the power to make decisions in your newsroom, but CMS projects are like storming the beach at Normandy — even if it’s successful, many involved in the operation will not survive.

With that optimistic image fresh in your mind, let’s look at what CMSs do and why your news organization needs one.

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